What’s at Stake for the Cannabis Industry?: Activism, Inclusion, and a Path Forward

A careful glimpse into the history of our cannabis industry reveals a troubled history of discrimination, stigmatization, and incarceration.

Repairing this damage takes the participation of each and every one of us. For our team here at Cannabis Creative, this means educating the industry on what it means to embrace diversity and inclusion in cannabis marketing.

It also means working with nonprofit organizations doing the important work to participate in their own way, nonprofits like the Philadelphia CannaBusiness Association (PCBA).

The PCBA educates the industry, provides resources, organizes and mobilizes impact communities, and overall works to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cannabis industry.

To help amplify their mission to repair the damage caused by the false War on Drugs, Cannabis Creative will be designing and developing a custom website. We have also teamed up with activist and journalist Tauhid Chappell from the PCBA to shed light on a path forward.

Read Tauhid’s guest blog on the opportunities to create meaningful change in the cannabis industry while fighting for legalization. 


What’s at stake?

On April 20, 2020, in the midst of the first (and only) 4/20/20, I, as a medical marijuana patient, cannabis journalist and organizer for the newly created Philadelphia CannaBusiness Association, called for the legalization, taxation and regulation of cannabis for adult use in Pennsylvania in an effort to liberate those impacted by mass incarceration and cannabis prohibition.

There’s a lot riding on the line in the name of freedom, liberation and reconciliation for unjust and racist harm caused by cannabis prohibition.

In a highly-supervised state like Pennsylvania, in which an ACLU report found that if you’re Black and in Pennsylvania, you’re more than three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than a white person, even though cannabis use is the same rate.

For Philadelphia it’s a city with a 44% Black population, a city that is suffering from a 25% poverty rate (nicknamed the “poorest biggest city in the country”), and a city that is one of the most supervised biggest cities that is grappling with high amounts of probation and gun violence.

Despite the fact that Philadelphia decriminalized cannabis for possession in 2014 and Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2018, the ongoing destructive force stemming from the failed War on Drugs and over policing continued to ravage my city.

In fact, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 20,000 Pennsylvanians have been arrested for cannabis possession, according to NORML.

The negative socioeconomic and political consequences of mass incarceration, the rise of private prisons and jails and militarization of our police is astronomical. In a country where punitive consequences have not shown positive changes in public safety and public health, it’s time to stop harming those for using a plant, and take a new, more empathetic and public-health first approach, in healing our country from the deep traumatic wounds of the past.

Artwork by nikkolas_smith on Instagram

However I believe that cannabis legalization, if done within an equity framework, has legitimate opportunities to address the myriad amounts of negative social determinants that continue to grip the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

The time for legalization is now; needs to happen, especially following the ongoing legalization of Pennsylvania’s neighbors of New York and New Jersey.

Legalization has already swept the nation, with more than 17 states legalizing cannabis for adult use, one in three Americans living in a state where adult-use cannabis is legal, and more than 69% of Americans favoring legalization, according to an April 15 Quinnipiac University poll.

The House of Representatives passed the historic MORE Act to decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, provide reinvestment to those adversely impacted by the war on drugs, and expunge records of certain cannabis offenses.

Cannabis legalization also has strong bi-partisan under the work of social justice reform and redress. Adult-use legalization can address several issues that unite lawmakers across the aisle: from using potential tax revenue to address poverty and job and workforce development, to ongoing bipartisan support for criminal legal reform, such a policy can introduce a myriad of reconciliation and repair measures for the communities that have been most impacted by marijuana’s criminalization.

Cannabis legalization in the Keystone State will happen. It’s just a matter of how. But one thing is for certain: it’s time to advance the ongoing fight to eliminate cannabis prohibition, legalize adult-use cannabis, and truly free the plant.

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