It truly came as a genuine surprise to me when cannabis became an essential service during a global pandemic. There’s no denying that COVID-19 is serious. But, we have a larger health crisis plaguing humanity. It is the unjust and almost ritualistic killings of Black Women, Black Trans, and Black Men by white police officers. Not to mention the murderous actions by white citizens, and cis-gendered people overall that is a human and social health crisis. In 2013, the ACLU ran a study and found that cannabis “use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.” Black people demand revolution. We demand change.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade have me truly heartbroken. As well as the countless others took too soon and so unjustly; the issue goes beyond that. The pain and suffering of the Black community should not and will not be commodified on my watch.
Hashtagging #blacklivesmatter without addressing the systemic racially biased policies is not enough. These policies have kept many Black Americans out of an industry that was built on their pain, bodies, and prison sentences. CANNABIS IS POLITICAL AND THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED; social media will reveal it all. When the days of equality finally come did you or the cannabis company you own or work for do enough?
Washington State Criminal History Check. Source: lab.wa.gov
Silence Is Violence
I had a conversation with the owner and GM of the dispensary I work for. The outcome was lackluster, to say the least. In short, I was told by them, “I’m not black and don’t know what this feels like so I don’t want to get political.” To be clear, it’s not my job nor the job of any African American person to start the conversation. Nor is it our duty to educate white people and non-black people about race equity in the workplace.
When you have a staff comprised of mostly black people it should be intuitive to support them in the struggle. Not to instead dismiss and displace the responsibility of cannabis license holders to create an inclusive and fair space for Black people.
However, it is also not the place of license holders to commodify black communities, bodies, and personalities for profit and then abandon them in their time of need. You place your dispensaries inside black communities and then say that institutional racism is not your problem. You can have an emergency action plan when a peaceful protest walks by. But, you can’t aid the community you have stolen from and profited off of. Shame on you.
Staying silent is violent and dangerous. It is dangerous to the staff and to the public. At present, coming to work and being told it is an inclusive space is an outright lie. Especially when the company is not taking action to combat its own bias. The black community does not need sympathies. We need empathy, support, and fair licensing practices to achieve diverse ownership within the cannabis industry. We need our white peers and allies to educate and eradicate racism in hiring processes. As well as creating paths to career advancements in the workplace and appropriate promotional advertisements. Though the chart below represents data from 2017, I’m sure these numbers haven’t seen much change.
At the company I work for, I’ve heard disparaging comments made against Jews, Vietnamese, and the Black community. The reality is I have felt the microaggressions of my white co-workers in regard to my hair and appearance. They’ve made comments such as “you don’t look black enough,” or even touching my hair without consent.
I have had a sexual harassment claim mishandled. To the point that my complaint was even shown to the man who was harassing me. I, a black woman, must be fabricating an issue if a white man touches me without my consent. Believe your black co-worker when they tell you their experiences. Believe them when they say they have post-traumatic stress from a lifetime of overt and coded racism.
Black people are tired. Your black co-workers (if you have any) are tired. WE ARE TIRED. Cut the shit and get on the racial and gender equality train. Stop using black bodies and culture to amplify and commodify a plant that allowed you to demonize the black community for over 70 years.