The weed industry continues to break records that no other enterprise has come close to since its genesis. By the end of 2030, the bud industry estimates to bring in more than $205 billion. This enterprise consists of companies of all forms and suits. Some of these corporations focus on acquiring assets, safety and loss prevention, manufacturing, logistics, and much more. Additionally, a large populace of folks is presently behind bars for low-level quantities of weed. In honor of Black History Month, It’s high time (pun intended) to address the elephant in the room: Black people and the marginalization of their communities thanks to cannabis.
History of racial disparities & cannabis
During the 1900s, the state of weed took a hit like none other substance before it. This piece of weed history is often known as ‘Reefer Madness.’ This is a time of defamation and propaganda of the plant, unlike any time in history. Ironically, a film produced during the Great Depression displayed the ‘problems’ and scares of smoking cannabis.
This raid was championed by a gentleman known as Harry Anslinger alongside the known timber baron William Randolph Hearst. The latter is best known for creating the largest newspaper publication: the New York Times. These folks feared the durability and flexibility of weed in its textile form: hemp. The industrial form of cannabis is stronger and more tangible than textiles such as cotton, timber, and others. These amazing feats fascinated Anslinger, Hearst, and others in the timber industry. Despite this, instead of harvesting the advantageous effects of weed and hemp for patrons, Anslinger, with Hearst’s help and financial backing, decided to run the most evil-spirited smudge campaign ever directed against a substance (let alone a plant with medicinal properties.)
How cannabis marginalized Black communities
Aside from the financial apprehensions associated with weed, there was a litany of racial anxieties related to the ingestion of the plant. Anslinger and Hearst, early (negative) integral components of cannabis, directly rattled off a mouthful of racism propaganda. One of the most typically referenced elements of propaganda during the Reefer Madness Era is how weed would make Caucasian women find “Negro men” ( yes, they wrote that.) sexually appealing. Despite this, the cluelessness would not stop here. Fast-forwarding nearly 100 years, weed would remain a primary enemy for many nations. In the U.S., the plant was added to the list of illegal drugs banned by the federal government in 1972.
Moreover, weed became a cornerstone of the schedule I list of banned substances. Remaining transparent, this indicates that the federal government believed that weed was just as troublesome and detrimental to one’s health as magic mushrooms, peyote, and potent opioids like Oxycontin and Percocet. Anyone with a fraction of common sense would never correspond weed and addictive painkillers.
Thanks to the regulation, cannabis ownership, and unlawful retail would see ‘criminals’ jailed for literally decades and even a lifetime. As of Q1 2022, the data associated with the people of color who were jailed for weed-related offenses outweigh those of any other race who are jailed.
The face of the cannabis industry today
Today, the face of the industry is much different. Cannabis is legal (or pending legalization) in many states, provinces, and countries worldwide. Moreover, Black people have become integral to the advancement of the cannabis enterprise. The negative connotation associated with the history of weed and Black people is slowly coming to a close. There are countless Black entrepreneurs in the cannabis space; There are lawmakers of color doing their part to boost social equity and append the broken relationship between cannabis, law enforcement, and people of color.
The cannabis industry was built on the backs of people of color. Ironically, so is the future. But more progressively.