As the George Floyd protests carry on across the United States shining the light on racial injustice, the fight must not stop at police brutality. Corporate America still profits off systematic racism and the marijuana industry could become the next injustice to the African-American community if action isn’t taken soon.
White owners have taken over the cannabis industry. Licenses, which are handed out by the government, are necessary to legally sell marijuana. So far, it has been much easier for big businesses, which are already flushed with cash and lack minority representation, to acquire these licenses.
As such, white people make up 81 percent of the marijuana industry while African-Americans make up just 4.3 percent. And that just isn’t right.
African-Americans have been 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, via the ACLU, and they make up 33 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses despite making up 12.5 percent of illicit drug users, per the NAACP.
Many of the arrests are not even worthy of police officers’ time. The ACLU said 88 percent of marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 were for simply having marijuana. Seriously, how stupid is that? All of these arrests have been made for holding a substance that is now considered an essential business. 31 states have labeled marijuana as an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Netflix’s Hasan Minhaj.
And you might wonder why the government has had a change of heart? Why has it labeled marijuana essential shortly after arresting millions for possessing it? It is not because the government suddenly views weed as harmless. Corporate America sees it as a business opportunity.
The marijuana industry is currently worth $19 billion and is expected to expand to $30 billion by 2023, via Minhaj.
When marijuana was first legalized, California was going to limit the licenses to a one-acre limit, according to Leafly. The limit would then help minority owners join the business and stop big corporations from buying up all the licenses and squeezing out minority marijuana producers.
According to Minhaj, the limit was supposed to be in effect until 2023. But large corporations lobbied against the limit spending $1.6 million. The limit was then abandoned and corporate America was able to buy up all the small licenses to squeeze out minority business owners in the weed industry. That is why the industry sees African-Americans owning just 4.3 percent of the business.
The legalization of marijuana should have been a great milestone. It is a substance that can help medically and reduce stress in people’s lives. The industry could also have been an excellent way for minority communities to profit and help even a systematically racist playing field.
Instead, corporate America, with no opposition from the government, is stealing the marijuana industry from minorities. If awareness isn’t raised soon enough, corporate America will take all the profit and success while leaving minority communities behind financially in the marijuana industry.
Below is Hasan Minhaj’s video on the rigged marijuana industry. The episode has inspired me to take a deeper dive into the industry and is worth watching. Spread the word!
*Ryan Lipton is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Business Journalism. He has written in the past for SB Nation’s Silver and Black Pride, USA Today Sports Media Group, North Carolina Business News Wire, the Daily Tar Heel, and has worked with Ice Cube’s BIG3 basketball league. Ryan writes regularly for meidastouch.com
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