How Black People Inadvertently Built the Cannabis Industry
The cannabis industry continues to shatter records that no other industry has come close to since its inception. By the end of the decade, the cannabis industry is projected to gross more than $200 billion. This industry consist of business of all shapes and sizes. Some of these businesses focus on investment, security and loss prevention, packaging, transportation, logistics, and many others. However, before the cannabis industry became legitimate as early as the 2000s, many individuals have been incarcerated for running their cannabis businesses, albeit once illegitimate. Moreover, a large population of individuals are currently behind bars for minuscule amounts of cannabis. In honor of February being Black History Month, It’s time to address the elephant in the room on how Black people (and other people of color) inadvertently BUILT the cannabis industry.
History of racial disparities & cannabis
In the early 1900s, the state of cannabis would take a nosedive like none other. This portion of cannabis history is often known as ‘ Reefer Madness.’ This is a time of slander and propaganda of cannabis, unlike any additional time in history. There was even a film produced during the Great Depression that showcased the ‘horrors’ of using cannabis. This onslaught was led by a man named Harry Anslinger with the prominent timber baron William Randolph Hearst. The latter is best known for creating the largest newspaper publication of then and now: the New York Times. These men feared the versatility of cannabis in its industrial form: hemp. Hemp is many more times stronger and more durable than materials such as cotton, timber, and nylon. These astounding feats intrigued Anslinger, Hearst, and other timber barons. However, instead of harvesting the beneficial properties of cannabis and hemp for consumers, Anslinger, with Hearst’s help and finances, decided to run the most vigorous smear campaign ever orchestrated against a plant.
More racism in the history of cannabis
Aside from the economic fears associated with cannabis, there were a handful of racial worries related to the consumption of the plant. Anslinger and Hearst directly spewed a variety of racist propaganda; One of the most commonly referenced pieces of racist propaganda amidst the Reefer Madness era is how cannabis would make white women find “negro men” sexually attractive. However, the ignorance would not stop here. Fast-forwarding 70 years, cannabis would remain public enemy #1. Cannabis was added to the list of illegal substances outlawed by the United States in 1972.
Additionally, cannabis became a part of the schedule I list of banned substances. For clarity, this means that the United States Government believed that cannabis was just as problematic and dangerous to one’s health as LSD, peyote, and even heroin. Anyone with a sliver of common sense would never compare cannabis to heroin. Thanks to the scheduling, cannabis possession and distribution would see offenders incarcerated for literally decades and even lifetimes. Today, the statistics associated with the people of color who are convicted of cannabis-related offenses outweigh those of any other race who are convicted. Frankly, we as a people are tired of it.
How the cannabis industry are righting these wrongs
Despite the United States’ House of Representatives passing a historic bill, nothing is set in stone surrounding the decriminalization of cannabis on a federal level. However, owners and operators of cannabis businesses understand the repercussions cannabis-related offenses on one’s record can have on their professional livelihood. Especially those of color. This is why companies in the cannabis industry prioritize candidates who have been affected by the outdated laws surrounding the criminalization of cannabis. Although there is no way to make up for lost time, the least cannabis companies can do is give the people of color who wrongfully convicted a chance at a career that was outright stolen from them.