Being Black in America is complicated, even where weed is legal.
As one of the few Black men in my family with a college degree, smoking weed has always been taboo. Something someone would say was reserved for my underachieving cousins. Plus, when you can “make it out the hood,” your family is going to steer you away from anything that could land you in jail – herb included.
It’s no secret that Black people are prosecuted more harshly than other citizens. Petty marijuana possessions have altered the lives of myself and countless other Black people across the US. And now that I’ve lived in a state where weed is recreationally legal, you would think it’d be easy to let the worry roll off my back.
So many states have legalized marijuana and many others have decriminalized possession. Yet, the dispensary still doesn’t feel right to me.
Keeping my identity as a black cannabis consumer
Don’t get me wrong, I love the field trips to the dispensary where you can order weed like you’re at a fast-food drive-thru, view glass cases full of accessories, and talk with happy staff members ready to get me fried. Whenever I’m west of Kansas City, one of my first moves is to hit the dispensary. But I still can’t help but think about the people rotting in jail while I debate where to buy legal weed.
Promoting the Black Lives Matter movement in my daily life is a priority, it’s important to keep the Black dollar in our own economy. What would I look like to my community leaving my happy neighborhood to go across town and buy weed from white people I don’t know?
If the cannabis industry isn’t going to acknowledge the atrocities that Black people have endured at the hands of the justice system, then I can’t say I’ll ever be a regular customer at a dispensary. But it’s a shame that all Black Americans still have to face the double standard to enjoy something as pure as weed.
Helping the Black community gain a voice in cannabis
America’s progress as a nation will be measured by equity. To help the Black community gain a voice in cannabis, we need participation at every level of the cannabis industry including:
- Buying from Black-owned dispensaries, when possible.
- Acknowledgment that the lack of Black-owned dispensaries continues to hinder the power of the Black dollar. Black dispensaries could carry products from Black-owned growers, who could use Black distributors, with the final product being sold to eager Black customers.
- Helping Black cannabis entrepreneurs receive grants and enter programs to help close the wealth gap and create opportunities for ownership.
- Creating more cannabis jobs for people (particularly women) of color.
- Expunging the records of non-violent criminals locked up in states where cannabis is legal.
- Connecting people like me with your local weed dealer…at least until we get more Black dispensaries.