It’s been two years since we’ve launched Cannabis Doing Good (CDG) alongside our partners kindColorado, and now, with pride and humility, we’ve recently launched our first nonprofit, the Cannabis Impact Fund (CIF), with fiscal sponsorship from Sensible Colorado.
Let’s start with a little bit of history which will help frame the Impact Fund and the work we hope to support.
Cannabis and Systemic Racism
Cannabis and Hemp are known to have been used throughout the history of the United States; hemp fiber from the plants was used to make clothes, paper, and rope. There were no real government restrictions on cannabis in the US until the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, which was enacted as a racist response to the influx of hispanic immigrants into the US and the African American musicians from the south.
Taxing the sale of cannabis and hemp gave authorities the power to enforce laws against illegal grows, sales, use, etc. From the start, a majority of the laws enforced were against blacks and hispanics.The government and media portrayed cannabis as a drug that made folks violent, which put even more of a stigma around the plant and those associated with it.
Once the sentencing for drug convictions became mandatory in 1952 through the Boggs Act, this paved the way for Nixon and Reagan’s “War on Drugs”, which targeted the unregulated drug market.. Since cannabis was classified similarly to heroin and cocaine, cannabis dealers and consumers were then also charged in the same fashion as those that were associated with the harder and more dangerous substances.
Although whites use cannabis just as much as non-whites, Black Americans are arrested for cannabis offenses at a rate of nearly 4:1 compared to whites. And, although the US contains less than 5% of the world’s population, we unfortunately take up a quarter of the world’s prison population. A majority of that population are non-whites, with the highest percentage being black.
Systemic racism isn’t just intertwined with the criminalization of cannabis, but it is also present in the legal industry. How is it fair that the legal cannabis industry can be generating billions of dollars in tax revenue, but prisoners are still behind bars for cannabis crimes? On top of that, a very small fraction of entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are black.
The industry is structured so people with past crimes, including cannabis convictions, have difficulty getting a license. From a business perspective, it is very expensive to become a business owner in the cannabis industry because of so many legal obstacles. From a consumer perspective, it is expensive to purchase legal cannabis. Because of the current market’s financial and legislative obstacles and ongoing disparities from Drug War policy and propaganda, black Americans have limited opportunity in cannabis. Wouldn’t it make sense to find pathways to onboard folks from the legacy market to participate in the now legal market, bringing their expertise and their history with the plant? Wouldn’t it be just to expunge all nonviolent marijuana possession records and release current cannabis prisoners?Wouldn’t it be equitable to ensure the legal market created both resources and opportunity to invite black and brown community participation and ownership? The current legal cannabis landscape isn’t built on equity or justice or repair. It’s actually still being built and implemented off the backs of black, brown, poor and sick people – without very little benefit to them.
We also recognize getting our (majority white) industry engaged in race and justice has its challenges. And that there are folks that have been doing this work for decades if not their lifetime. Our goal is to provide connection and resources between cannabis community leaders and the black and brown organizations leading change. More so, to make the right thing, the easy thing. We think we’ve done that..
The Cannabis Impact Fund
Although the mission of CIF is to “promote racial justice, heal the planet, and support communities in need by leveraging a conscious cannabis sector,” we’re focusing the next 12 months on exclusively supporting those organizations that are fighting for racial justice. As an active member of the legal cannabis community, it is our responsibility and obligation to fight against systemic racism. CIF is an opportunity for our industry to do just that!
On the CIF website there are options to donate, pledge 1%, or become a founding member. These resources are then deployed to our grantees: Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, The Bail Project, The Hood Incubator, Minority Cannabis Business Association and Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana.