Cannabis helped the Jazz Agee flourish, serving as a conduit for creativity, music production and performance. The 1920-30s saw the beginnings of cannabis slang and cultural development, specifically in Black communities. Joints were sold outside tea pads or cannabis bars. Musicians would light up on tea, reefer, grass – codes for cannabis since the drug was vilified nationally and on the cusp of criminalization – singing tributes to the substance.” – Daily Trojan
But countless Black Americans have paid the price for giving us the gift of cannabis. Michael Thompson, now 69, was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison after selling a few pounds of marijuana in 1994. He’s imprisoned in Michigan – a state with legal cannabis today. Thompson isn’t up for parole until he’s in his 80s.
There are more than 40,000 Black and Brown American cannabis prisoners with stories similar to Michael’s. Prisoners are watching from behind bars as more states legalize cannabis, and business owners and municipalities profit off a plant and industry without their participation.
This amid the backdrop of a pandemic that’s put prisoners at risk.
“People serving prison time for cannabis offenses will be at increased risk of dying from the virus, as prisons are the perfect confluence of conditions to spread infectious disease, and typically have substandard health care. Whether someone agrees with legalization or not, nearly all of us would agree that a cannabis offense should never be a death sentence.” -Kris Krane, Forbes
Fortunately, individuals and organizations have stepped up to advocate for Black cannabis prisoners and Black participation in the cannabis industry.
Colorado’s Black Cannabis Equity Initiative is focused on building opportunity, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our cannabis industry (we recently sat down with the founder and CEO, John Bailey – check it out here). And organizations and individuals are working toward the expungement of low-level cannabis convictions in Colorado.
Black and Brown Colorado citizens shouldn’t carry the stigmatization and burden for the past conviction of an “offense” that’s no longer considered a crime. Our industry has a responsibility to work toward racial justice, and it’s never been more urgent to release cannabis prisoners from their cells.