Why is the marijuana industry so damn white?

As the "green rush" picks up steam, it's time to let all colors participate

Published June 10, 2017 11:59AM (EDT)

 (Reuters/Steve Dipaola)
(Reuters/Steve Dipaola)

This post originally appeared on The Fresh Toast.

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We may be in the midst of the “green rush” but 90 percent of the marijuana industry is another color, and that color is white. (And male. And probably straight).

Jacob Plowden, founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association and his Aunt Molly Adams, want to change that. They span three generations of use within one family, but because of when and how they grew up, share totally different experiences.

Historically, there are several reasons for this color/gender imbalance. It began as far as the 1930s when marijuana prohibition became the law of the land.

Marijuana came from Mexico, the land of poor, brown people, and when those people started flooding across the border to flee the economic misery unleashed by the Great Depression, a tide of anti-immigrant fervor took hold.

“Reefer” was also big in the American jazz scene, led by African Americans. A big fear was that the evil weed would cause white women to have sex with black men. Those implications persisted for long time.

Today, the issues are as much socio-economic as social. The ACLU says that of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, 88 percent were for possession. African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be busted for possession than whites, which means that a bust for a white guy like me is a slap on the hand. For a person of color, it’s a ticket to orange.

Today, even as legalization spreads, many states ban applicants from obtaining cannabis business licenses if they have any criminal record, even for misdemeanors. California is changing that when it goes legal in 2018. Their laws recognize that it’s unfair is it to punish people throughout their lives for a crime that most of us don’t consider criminal at all. Not every state is as forgiving. Add in the high cost of launching a cannabis business and the barrier to entry is even higher.

By Joe Dolce


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Legal Marijuana Marijuana Industry The Fresh Toast