Marijuana stigma keeping Blacks out of billion-dollar industry

Photo credit: Instagram – @future

There have been very few opportunities for Blacks in this country to be in a position to capitalize on a new industrial movement as leaders. If we look back on the history of this country and look at the major eras that made family fortunes whether it’s cotton, oil, railroads, steel or computers, Blacks have been laborers and consumers but rarely the ones who own the infrastructure that created empires. That all is changing with the passage of marijuana laws across the United States in what some are calling the “Green Rush.”

We all know the historical facts about marijuana, it’s been used as medicine for thousands of years and is a simple plant. A plant that was grown by George Washington and others as part of the essential trade of hemp. Marijuana went from being a legal global commodity from the 1600s until the early 20th century when temperance movements and eventually U.S. policy started to make it illegal. Despite its illegality, people still smoked marijuana for medicinal as well as recreational use. Now in 2018, people are not only smoking but also legally selling it and making billions in an industry that will reach an estimated $24 billion in sales by the year 2025, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research, and analytics firm. The firm also states that within three years the legal marijuana industry will employ 225K. Despite this fact, Black participation in the cannabis industry accounts for less than 1 percent. That means of the estimated $10.1B in legal sales, the portion for Black entrepreneurs was an estimated $10M.

Dr. Rasean Hodge and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (Photo dource: Dr. Rasean Hodge)

Dr. Rasean Hodge, a marijuana advocate and physician in Atlanta, says that one reason for the disparity in Black participation in the industry is cultural stigma. Dr. Hodge is one of a handful of physicians in Georgia who is authorized by the state to register a person for a Low THC Card issued by the Georgia Department of Public Health. “The African American community must overcome the stigma of marijuana. When it comes to cannabis and race, Blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 9 to 1 when compared to Whites. Because of this, we all heard stories of a family member who got in trouble with marijuana and how it negatively impacted their life. Meanwhile, all this momentum is building up in states that show a multibillion-dollar industry building and flashing before our eyes and we are missing it because we are scared to talk about it,” Hodge told rolling out.

Stephanie Smith,43, mother is alleged to be weed queen (Image Source: San Bernardino Police)

This is not a stigma that White kids have to deal with and it shows. Just recently Stephanie Smith, 43, she appeared to be your typical well-to-do White mom who lives in an upscale community. It was later revealed she had a weed empire and police seized 17K pounds of weed and over 20K plants. But her life is not ruined because she lives in California and it was considered a failure to get the correct permits. More than likely he will just pay a small fine and be charged with a misdemeanor.

A growing string of businesses are profiting from growing and distributing marijuana. But when it comes to Black farmers getting a piece of the lucrative pie, it seems they are being shut out. For example, the state of Florida has authorized the issuance of 10 licenses to grow marijuana in the state. In 2015, a case known as the Pigsford Decision proved the fact that USDA discriminated against Black farmers by increasing tax sales, seizing land, delaying loans and denying subsidies and disaster relief and other actions, which White farmers were not subjected to. Because of these injustices, 13K Black farmers successfully sued the federal government for over $2.3B. Because of this, it was agreed that one of the marijuana grow permits in Florida would go to a Black farmer. That permit was supposed to go to Columbus Smith, a Black farmer from Panama City. But a lawsuit has challenged the carve out of the one permit going to a Black person and now the permit has been halted by a Tallahassee judge.

However, in states that have recreational marijuana laws, there are Blacks who are taking advantage of the economic opportunities. Colorado boasts a growing number of Black farmers and dispensaries that have the necessary knowledge and capital to invest in the industry. There are numerous investment opportunities in cannabis that can’t be ignored and it makes sense to drop the stigma. It makes more sense to invest in marijuana, a physical and legal commodity, than it does to buy a $15K bitcoin.

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.

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