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Boom and bust

Melissa Hutsell
Freelance Writer and Editor
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piqer: Melissa Hutsell
Friday, 14 December 2018

A Legal Boom, But for Whom? A Look Into The Gap Between Two Cannabis Economies

Code Switch is produced by journalists of color. This episode was released last year, but it's just as (if not more) relevant now as more states in the U.S. — and countries around the world — pass pro-cannabis laws.

Linda Grant has sold cannabis in Oakland, California for practically her entire life. Now she wants to go legit.

But there’s a gap in the legal cannabis industry, explains Code Switch’s hosts, “one underground, one legit — one where black people and Latinos are more likely to be punished and the other where white people are more likely to profit.”

Getting black and brown people into the booming industry is a matter of racial justice. And time is running out, says Grant.

The podcast explores the history of cannabis prohibition in America, and how figures in government (Anslinger, Nixon) used the plant to fuel racial resentment the U.S.–Mexican War.

John Hudak, author, said the “easiest thing for government, for [citizens who] resented immigrants and for media to do was to create these narratives about the bad that was coming across the border. And marijuana was part of that narrative.”

The propaganda worked; it’s had huge ramifications for crime and punishment since.

Though black and white Americans use cannabis at the same rate, African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for possession. Ezekiel Edwards of the ACLU explained that legalization has had little effect on that disparity.

Entrepreneur Andrea Unsworth said that when it comes to finding start-up money, “[…] we're pretty much at the back of that bus.” She said it’s what stops most people of color from entering the industry, adding, “You know, we haven't had hundreds of years to amass capital in that way, especially if you were in the cannabis industry.”

The podcast discusses organizations and opportunities in the Bay Area for people of color, and ends by elaborating a point Linda Grant made before: the window to create equity in the cannabis industry is closing. 

A Legal Boom, But for Whom? A Look Into The Gap Between Two Cannabis Economies
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