Despite the rapid expansion of the medical marijuana business in Oklahoma, more blacks and browns are incarcerated for selling cannabis on the street than the businesses that are now making huge sums of money selling cannabis in the currently legalized environment.
Cannabis Equity and Economics was the topic of the June 11th issue of JR / Now. Interim editor Joe Dowd spoke to Dr. Bridget Williams, owner of Green Harvest Heal; Kevin Greene, vice president of the Cleveland School of Cannabis; and Michael Fields, Social Justice and Inclusion Advisor, on the subject, uncovering the complex reasons for minority underrepresentation in the cannabis industry and what can be done about it.
Propaganda and misinformation has distorted the public’s perception of blacks’ relationship with cannabis – even within the black community itself, all panelists agreed. Williams said she met with church groups to answer questions, especially for members of the older generation.
“What I find is that the black community is very reluctant to take hold of it because of our past,” said Williams. “Because crack cocaine has destroyed our communities, because even the street selling of cannabis has put so many of our loved ones in jail. The white community is reaching for this thing. They use CBD. It’s the CEO, it’s the soccer mom, everyone loves cannabis and they’re proud and happy about it. “
People need information from someone they trust in order to make informed decisions about medical marijuana uses.
“You need a black doctor for that because you trust your own,” Fields said. “You only get people on board when you have them at the table. This trust has to be built. “
Still, black doctors are still a sparse number, and the percentage of black doctors has not increased, or has not increased at all, since the 1940s, Williams said. Much of the black community has had a difficult relationship with traditional Western medicine, as cultural misunderstandings and insensitivity can make discussing pain, symptoms, and diagnoses with their doctors difficult.
“The black community is withdrawing from our traditional medical community; they’re looking for options, ”Williams said. “Around 31% of African Americans seek some form of alternative medicine simply because they feel disenfranchised in the current medical community.”
“One of the church members stood up and shared her experience of being a medical cannabis patient, and the fear in her eyes as she stood up I could see that she was very afraid to come out to her church. “Said Williams. “It made a huge difference in lowering boundaries and having productive conversations.”
The industry itself can work to make a difference by making efforts to integrate as part of doing business in the industry, Fields said.
“Cultural justice needs to be part of their business and way of thinking,” Fields said. “Every license holder should be responsible for doing something in the area of social justice, be it education, employment, full service – that should be consistent with your license.”
Inclusion benefits the entire industry as the talent pool is expanded and more and better ideas can flow in.
“If we don’t allow the industry to have all the talented people in it, it means the industry will never reach its full potential,” said Greene.
The more people educated about the realities of the cannabis industry, the more people can be reached, panelists said.
“We want to bring them into the circle and give them the tools to return to their communities and successfully talk about cannabis, the economy, and the job, because if they get this message of their own, then sooner join in, ”said Fields.
For such a large industry, cannabis is still grassroots-driven and surprisingly attracts people who are at least as interested in wellness as they are in the financial potential of the problem, Greene said.
“When our capitalist aspirations and aspirations and our humanity collide, it changes the world,” Greene said.