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Cannabis Legalization IS a Civil Rights Issue

Social equity is important to help people of color move on from the racist inquisition of cannabis prohibition. It’s a Civil Rights issue.

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Civil Rights
PHOTO | Alex Brandon
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Americans have the right to political and social freedom and equality, as guaranteed by the Constitution. But reflecting on how this country was founded, there is no doubt the reason the U.S. is a superpower today is because the colonists and subsequent immigrants who became the industrialists had free labor through ownership of slaves to build their homesteads, ranches, companies and corporations.

The country would never have the infrastructure it does in terms of roads, buildings and power supplies if it was not for slave labor of people of color. This incomprehensible display of racism has attributed to the empires of American families with names like Rockefeller, Forbes, Vanderbilt and Griswold, to name only a few. The freedom of slaves and later the civil rights movement were pivotal moments of liberty for American people of color, who were not given the same rights to political and social freedom and equality that the Constitution guaranteed.

The legalization of cannabis can also create a huge shift in the Civil Rights of Americans.

Cannabis, Civil Rights and Reefer Madness

After the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws enacted racial segregation and the legal principle “separate but equal.” This carried into schooling, transportation and public facilities. Not until 1954, when the landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down, did segregation become unconstitutional. Though it took years to implement the decisions, the Supreme Court continued to hand down rulings against the Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were the last laws to help overturn the institutional discrimination.

However, during this period, in 1942, the Japanese Internment took place and people were suspected of committing crimes against the country during WWII solely because of their Japanese ancestry. The abusive move by the American government to substitute race and national origin for evidence is today recognized as shameful and a horrific event in our country’s history. The admission a sign that times are changing.

While laws and policy remove these intolerable acts of American racism on paper, the psychology and education for reform within people is taking longer to change. Decades after the Civil Rights Act was passed, many are still being targeted for the color of their skin, often being stopped at airports, pulled over in traffic and experiencing Constitutional violations of the 4th Amendment, for search and seizure. Official denials and insufficient proof have upheld these behaviors.

Again, in a country not above using skin color as evidence, the prohibition of cannabis in the mid-1930s started a wave of incarceration for people of color who use, grow, or sell marijuana. Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, made it his mission to seek out jazz musicians who used ‘marihuana.’ His internal memos berated jazz, reading, “It sounded like the jungles in the dead of night.” A different memo cautioned, “Unbelievably ancient indecent rites of the East Indies are resurrected.” And that the lives of jazz players “reek of filth.” He hoped to round up all-black jazz musicians and famously went after singer Billy Holiday for her heroin use — while helping white actress Judy Garland with her “troubled addiction” to heroin and wouldn’t dare arrest her.

“Prohibition was always used to eliminate people from this society and make it harder for them. It was part of the greater effort to continue what our country was unfortunately built on, slavery,” shared Allison Margolin, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense and cannabis attorney who has been heavily involved with California cannabis licensing and criminal drug cases.

Systemic racism leftover from the founders of this country gave way to modern racial profiling by law enforcement and the judiciary courts. The drug war greenlit in the 1980s increased the Jim Crow hysteria for cannabis tenfold, as rogue policy led to training DEA agents to look for people of color to pull over, especially if they’re black and driving expensive cars.

Cannabis was villainized by ‘reefer madness’ and in its own Jim Crow nightmare — no matter the American right to control our body and mind, covered in the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, which guarantees “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom of thought is also guaranteed by the first amendment. The prohibition of cannabis was unconstitutional from the get-go.

But, evolution pushes at humanity and while today humans are under attack by their own species, many people are choosing a higher consciousness over slavery. Prohibition can’t be justified on moral or legal ground. The American Medical Association and the Federal Drug Administration have denied the truth about drugs when they come in conflict with government policies and corporate agendas, but thanks to democracy, cannabis is being freed from illegality and stigma, one state at a time. In a groundbreaking national effort, on November 19th, 2019, The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 to advance the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). If passed by Congress, the U.S. is looking at ending federal cannabis prohibition completely.

The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana products, to address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the war on drugs and provide for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

First Nations people, the Native Americans who lived in North America before the Europeans invaded, have begun to open dispensaries and cultivation businesses on their reservations. With sovereign immunity from the U.S., the MORE Act will only change things slightly. Josh Grant, IIPAY Tribe member and Chairman of the Santa Ysabel Tribal Development Corporation, explained, “Let’s say the Fed pass the MORE Act and they put regulations in place, now do we want to give up our sovereign immunity and start operating on federal regulations? Do we want to waive our sovereign immunity and start functioning on state regulation? Probably not. Do we want to make our own regulations that fold these other ones in? Yes, we do.”

Not All Social Equity is Created Equal

Racial profiling is responsible for putting many people of color behind bars for cannabis. Expungement may be a huge win for America but what about reparations? While 40 acres and a mule was a Civil War promise never realized, Native Americans have long suffered in displacement and Mexicans completely shunned in the face of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, cannabis legalization in many states has promised to develop and implement policies that seek to center equity in cannabis policy reform.

Grant shares how deep these reforms are needed for First Nations people.

“What about tribal sovereignty and our ability and our inherent right to provide for our people by any means necessary? When we have elders without power and their houses are falling apart, when we have children without housing, without heat, without running water, when we have third-world conditions on our reservation, shouldn’t we be allowed under our tribal sovereignty to provide an economic plan to try to help these people with the proper dispersal of profit or income to cover the tribe? There’s a major civil right.

“What they’re violating is our tribal sovereignty by restricting us from having a free market to develop our resources to provide for our people. That’s first and foremost here. We’re talking first nations here; we’re talking first people. We’ve been pushed into a corner of worthless land, while the bulk of our territory has been taken and government entities are collecting taxes on that land without remitting a portion of those taxes back to the original people.”

Social equity programs hope to repair the damage done by the war on drugs and assist equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry to decrease disparities in low-income and marginalized communities.

Margolin explained the importance of social equity within the legalization framework, “I think that it’s one of the first times that any of the governmental bodies in the United States has chosen attempt at reparations in any kind of way shape or form. I think there’s obviously a lot that could be done to try to increase the power of social equity applicants. Most of those have to do with access to banking, not having to rely upon individuals or potential conglomerates who might make deals that aren’t like the best, but its better than nothing. It’s definitely a good beginning.”

But is social equity working? While all legal states do not have the same social equity programs, at the local level, cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are trying to set up stronger programs to combat the barriers to enter the cannabis business and offer employment and business ownership opportunities.

Allison Margolin commented on the effectiveness of Los Angeles Social Equity Program,

“There’s social equity issues that will arrive, like we had this whole thing with the electronic first come, first serve, that became a situation and had levels of unfairness. But I think that if we fairly increase the number of dispensaries allowed, there’s no cap and we relax in the sensitive use requirements and if the state has certain requirements for the social equity on the local level that’d be great. Also, if the state-mandated there wouldn’t be a dry county, we could fix this huge disparity between the philosophy of before — the philosophy that’s supposed to be underpinning all of this and going on in these local governments, which is like reefer madness.

“Without the local governments being on board right now we don’t have too much access and that affects the whole market. We need to have more retail. We need to have more state-mandated social equity ownership requirements. But even with those things, yes, people can make money but there are a lot of control issues and the ability to control the market. Otherwise social equity can have benefits.”

States like Illinois and Massachusetts made social equity an integral part of their cannabis legalization. In states that didn’t, like Oregon, the city of Portland stepped up and granted eligibility for reduced license fees to businesses whose owners or staff had previous marijuana convictions; and in 2016, they enacted a city marijuana sales tax to generate funds for economic and education programs in communities where drug laws were disproportionately enforced.

Finding a happy medium for reparations can make sure who is supposed to benefit does, but there are many ways to create categories that were maybe not defined outright. For example, in Los Angeles, there is a three-tier social equity program with many different qualifications and benefits. A workforce requirement has a good faith effort to employ 50% of the weekly hourly workforce from the residents living within a three-mile radius of the cannabis business premises, with 20% social equity workers and 10% transitional workers. There are ways to make opportunities for everyone.

The Importance of Social Equity

Just as vital to understanding that legalization is a civil rights issue, is to be aware of the campaign of disinformation by the government. America is a nation with so many elephants in the room. It’s a zoo. Conscious evolution aside, changes can be made through policy and social equity is a good start.

“Reparations need to happen in the country in order for the United States to survive. Basically, this can be a good beginning to how we start it,” Margolin said. The people who have gone to prison for cannabis had to hire attorneys, had to be bailed out and they lost their jobs. “There should be a way for those people to benefit first economically. In addition to all these laws, the financing needs to be opened up, so passing state and federal banking is part of the effort because then you can have government-mandated funds and specialty programs. But now, you’re basically on your own unless you’re part of a bigger conglomerate, which might be like a big management company or otherwise you’re just in not of good positioning power,” she added.

Social equity is important to help people of color move on from the racist inquisition of cannabis prohibition. Margolin expressed that her grandparents were Holocaust survivors and received reparations from the Germans during her entire life. “They weren’t bitter towards Germans. They had no issues with Germans. Actually they’re both from Poland and they never went back there because they said there was so much anti-Semitism, but they went to Germany.”

The emotional and psychological trauma of racism is a scar this entire nation will carry until it can become completely transparent and make amends. Cannabis legalization is a gigantic step towards equality for all.

Margolin adds, “Basically the drug war and the war with cannabis has always been about taking things that are basic human needs and basic human impulses, which are the right to alter our consciousness on a level that’s pretty nuanced and not bad for you and punishing people for something most everyone does or that many people do.”

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Kate Hudson Gets High for the Holidaze In Cannabis Cocktail Commercial

Kate Hudson stars in an ad for Cann beverages—the first time an A-lister has been the face of a weed brand in a mainstream commercial.

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Kate Hudson Gets High

Cann, a California-based cannabis-infused beverage firm, has partnered up with actress Kate Hudson and her King St. Vodka brand for the holiday season. To coincide with the debut of their special bundle offering – Cann Unspiked and King St. Vodka, the trio just opened a holiday-themed campaign.

Hudson, an actor, producer, and investor in the THC-laced brand Cann, starring in a film that breaks new ground by including the popular “social tonic” as the main element in a joyful adult beverage. Hudson’s own brand, King St. Vodka, provides the alcohol in this cranberry sage-flavored cocktail. In the video, Hudson is joined by party guests Baron Davis, former NBA All-Star-turned-TNT commentator, and Darren Criss, Emmy-winning actor and singer.

Hudson and Davis play an unusual couple preparing for a sophisticated house party in the ad, which could be the first time a Hollywood A-lister has stepped up as the face of a cannabis brand in a mainstream commercial. In fact, the two have been friends for a long time and are both financial backers of Cann, as is Criss, who met Hudson on the set of Glee.

Hannah Lux Davis, known for her work with Ariana Grande, Doja Cat, Kacey Musgraves, and others, directed the star-studded holiday campaign and features music from Criss’ latest Christmas album.

According to Cann’s founder Luke Anderson, the goal of the collaborations and campaign is to show that cannabis has become mainstream enough that a celebrity like Hudson is happy to use and promote it.

“We’re equating cannabis with alcohol because at these 2-milligram levels it’s as mild as a light beer or a glass of wine,” Anderson told Adweek. “We’re saying they deserve to be on equal footing. And people have been DIY-ing this for a long time anyway.”

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VIBES X Kaya Herb House Collab Launches in Jamaica

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VIBES x Kaya Herb House
PHOTO | Chris Lewinson/BUZZ

Vibes, the rolling paper brand co-founded by entrepreneur and rapper Berner in collaboration with Gnln, announces a collaboration with the Kaya Herb House for the holidays. Featuring lifestyle goods and premium rolling papers, VIBES x Kaya Herb House furthers both brands’ missions to create the ultimate experience for connoisseurs.

VIBES x Kaya Herb House marks the first common project between the two brands, which have a shared goal of educating consumers on a premium smoking experience and creating meaningful experiences around the cannabis lifestyle.

The collection’s retro graphic pays homage to the Caribbean’s smuggler planes

The Kaya Herb House franchise was founded in Jamaica by “Bali” Vaswani, who had established Marley’s Estate coffee brand in the United States. VIBES x Kaya will be available at the Herb House in Kingston, Jamaica, which features the first medicinal Ganja herb house in the Caribbean and offers locally grown herbs and straight-from-the-farm extracts line as well as a taste of world-renowned cuisine and juices at the cafe and pizza restaurant.

“This marks another milestone for the VIBES brand. We are thrilled to partner with such an industry legend, together introducing an authentic experience to Jamaica and bringing attention to the history of the industry in the Caribbean,” says Vanessa Vanjari, Brand Manager of Vibes.

The collaboration features rolling papers, apparel, and accessories for the global wellness traveller, including co-branded hemp king size skinny booklets, tee shirts, and a pizza cutter. The slogan “Build a Vibe” is stamped on the VIBES x Kaya rolling papers, a play on both a popular Jamaican catchphrase and VIBES’ signature “Catch a Vibe.”

Each piece in the collection contains a retro graphic style of a plane that pays homage to the history of cannabis in the Caribbean when smugglers flew cannabis for the black market over the coasts of Jamaica and Florida. Smuggler planes would drop packages into the water, gaining the name “Square Grouper.”

VIBES x Kaya is a month-long collaboration that launches on December 17, 2021 at the Kaya Herb House in Kingston, Jamaica.

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The Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative to Provide Support for NorCal Cultivators

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Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative

Our community of heritage, small-batch craft cannabis cultivators in Northern California is facing an existential crisis resulting from a combination of taxation, licensing, and market conditions. Many of the small farms that built and fueled the cannabis industry are currently facing extinction by the current cannabis pricing collapse compounded by overbearing regulations. To support those in crisis, Tim Blake and the Emerald Cup organizers have created a dedicated Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative, offering a rally and much-needed support through upcoming events at the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball and the 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards.

For over 17 years, the Emerald Cup has stood as a celebration of excellence. Founder Tim Blake has come to be recognized as a guardian of the ever-changing cannabis industry. At the upcoming Emerald Cup Harvest Ball on December 11-12 Blake has pledged support to the heart of their community, providing twenty-seven qualified small farm exhibitors with a pro-bono presence at the Harvest Ball.

“Burdensome and complicated regulations, over-taxation, and lack of access to market are destroying the small farmers who have pioneered and led the industry with innovation and quality,“ said Blake. “Small growers face challenges like prohibitively expensive permitting, legal fees, and rising taxes encouraging many of them to remain on the unregulated or “Traditional” market. Perhaps worst of all, most of these small growers are also located in the legendary Emerald Triangle region of Northern California, an area continually devastated by ongoing wildfires.”

Selected applicants will have the ability to present their products to attendees with premium placement on the market floor, a reduced concession arrangement, and heightened promotion to drive attendees to seek and support these small farms during the event and beyond. With the vision of lifting up and amplifying these small farms in the global marketplace, The Emerald Cup envisions this program as the first immediate step to support the community of the Emerald Triangle to prevent its disappearance.  

The Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative will be led by a council of community leaders, including Michael Katz of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, Genine Coleman of Origins Council, Chris Anderson of Redwood Roots Distribution, Nicholas Smilgys of Mendocino Cannabis Distribution, and Traci Pellar of the Mendocino Producers Guild, will launch at the Harvest Ball Craft Cannabis Marketplace and will continue at the Spring 2022 event in Southern California.

As with any important initiative, the first challenge facing the Emerald Cup organization is determining selection criteria. With literally thousands of small farms and businesses struggling in the California cannabis market, and the organization’s sincere desire to help each and every one, this is an incredibly difficult task. To structure this effort, Emerald Cup evaluated license distribution among Northern California’s heritage cannabis-producing counties with active ordinances. An independent body, the Council has allocated a proportional number of possible participants to each county.

This first event of the Harvest Ball will support four operators each from Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties, three each from Nevada and Sonoma Counties, and two each from Lake, Calaveras and Santa Cruz counties. An additional three slots will be made available for approved Social Equity Operators as defined by the requirements of these areas.

Participants that meet the criteria will be selected at random by lottery from all approved applicants from a given county. All applications are due by Saturday, November 13, 2021. Participants will be notified and announced on November 15, 2021. Each selected applicant will be able to offer up to three product SKUs for sale at the specially created Harvest Ball Craft Cannabis Marketplace during the event.

“Proposition 64 promised that no farms larger than one acre would be permitted to open until 2023, allowing smaller farms time to get organized. In 2017, Governor Brown opened up large-scale farming, and smaller farmers didn’t have time to react,” said Blake.

“Our goal is to do what we can to assist these remaining farmers who poured their love — not to mention finances — into their product, only to have the market landscape suddenly change. We support the Origins Council and other community organizations working to advocate for sensible policy change. We recognize that getting rid of cultivation taxes and streamlining the regulatory process at the county, state, and even national level is imperative to the survival of our small growers. We’d also like to see the retail component augmented, growing from 1,500 certified dispensaries to the 10,000 or so that are needed to provide an accessible, legal market.”

An industry rally and press conference will be held on Saturday, December 11, 2021, at the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball to raise industry, government, community, and media awareness of the crisis. Smaller sessions on the topic will happen during both the Harvest Ball and the ECAs. The sessions will include an open, solution-focused discussion on the issues affecting the market, with a focus on best practices and regulatory limitations.

 On an individual level, qualified small farms and growers selected for the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative will be offered premium vending locations at the Harvest Ball. The Initiative will also run for new participants at the Springtime Emerald Cup Awards in Los Angeles. All participants will enjoy a reduced concession rate at both events. 

“With the tremendous support of the Council of the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative, we are offering small farmers an exclusive vending program and platform so they can make more money at the show,” says Emerald Cup associate producer Taylor Blake.

“We know that we can’t solve all of our community’s problems with one initiative, but we are committed to putting our resources into evolving this program and working to improve access to the market for all small cannabis farmers.” 

Growers must meet several criteria to qualify for the program:

  • Hold a current and valid cannabis cultivation license for the state of California
  • Have a maximum farm size of 10,000 square feet
  • Practice sustainable farming
  • Participate in third-party certification programs such as OCal, Sun + Earth Certification, Clean Green Certification, Regennabis, Envirocann, etc. 

Any parties interested in applying or finding out more about the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative should visit: www.FORMofURL.com  

For additional information on the Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative and the Harvest Ball Craft Cannabis Marketplace, please email: Michael Katz at michael@mendocannabis.com.

The Emerald Cup Small Farms Initiative application will open Monday, November 8, 2021. The submission process will close for all farms on Saturday, November 13, 2021, at 11:59 PM PDT. All participants of the 2021 Harvest Ball Small Farms Initiative will be selected by lottery and alerted by Monday, November 15, 2021.

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