Learn about Cannabis and Racial Justice

Racial Justice & Social Equity

As actor Will Smith said all the way back in 2016, “Racism is not getting worse. It’s getting filmed.” Racism is horrible (just in general), but did you know (I’m talking to white people here, since BIPOC probably already know this) it’s also incredibly problematic in the cannabis industry?

Racism is a big problem in the cannabis industry for several reasons. I’ll give you my quick overview and then a whole bunch of resources so you can read more for yourself.

  1. Racial Disparity — BIPOC (Black Indigenous, & People of Color) are at much greater risk of going to jail for cannabis-related infractions than white people, despite research showing that the use of cannabis is comparable between races in the US. In fact, in America, Black people are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people (ACLU, 2020). In some states, they’re up to 10 times more likely. To put this into perspective, “strict drug-sentencing laws …lead to more black people being in the carceral system in 2008 than were enslaved in 1850” (Lewis, 2016).
  2. Nonviolent Offenses — Even though some police departments have stopped pursuing cannabis possession as a priority (in states where adult and or medical use is not yet legal), cannabis-related arrests were higher in 2018 than 2015. Almost 90% of cannabis arrests are for possession only — we’re not talking about some guy selling to school kids here, we’re talking about people caught and arrested with their own personal stash.
  3. Incarceration — There are loads of people in jail right now for nonviolent cannabis-related infractions, even in states where cannabis is legal.
  4. Exclusion — Many of the laws in place that disenfranchise people with criminal records (which is bad for so many reasons, and doesn’t happen in most other western nations) also keep them from participating in the cannabis industry. Read this article to understand how BIPOC are being systematically excluded from (or don’t feel safe participating in) the cannabis industry. As mentioned in Forbes, “numerous states have attempted (with or without success) to block persons with a record of drug-related or -adjacent arrests from getting a license, or even working in the industry” (Burns, 2020). These policies make it so some of the people who have the most experience with cannabis can’t work in the industry.


ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) (2020). A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform. https://www.aclu.org/report/tale-two-countries-racially-targeted-arrests-era-marijuana-reform

Burns, J. (2020, January 11). Make No Mistake: Cannabis Equity Can’t Wait. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2020/01/08/in-2020-cannabis-equity-cant-wait/#329e280d1c97

Lewis, A. C. (2016, March 17). America’s Whites-Only Weed Boom. BuzzFeed News. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/amandachicagolewis/americas-white-only-weed-boom


Further Reading: