The Long Form - The Whitening of Weed
There are many colours in the cannabis rainbow: Blue Dream, Purple Urkle, Orange Crush, Lemon Haze, Pink Kush. Looking at the buds in your hand, you would be right to marvel at the diversity that humans have created by breeding this amazing plant - but what about the buds on the bush? Who gets to grow that good-good, brand it, package, ship, sell it? Diversity of entrepreneurs is just as important as diversity of strains, if you ask us...
“The Grass is Greener” is a good primer on the issue, easily digestible in Netflix format. The documentary examines the politics around prohibition in North America. Fab Five Freddy, a long-time fixture on the New York music and style scene, walks you through the culture of cannabis and music in the early 20th century. Race relations have always been a part of this industry. Essentially, it’s much harder to ban dancing and mingling of people and ideas from different cultures than it is to ban a tangible substance that accompanied those parties.
Cannabis and Jazz have a long history together, both being worldly imports that were strongly shaped by their landings in port cities of North America. In New Orleans, slaves were allowed to have drums, unlike the rest of the new world. They brought their music to life on Sundays in the city square - a multitude of rhythms that had a profound effect on the local culture, and eventually the country at large.
The Man didn’t like it. He didn’t like the loose hips or lips, so the music had to live underground for the rest of the week. Monday to Saturday, the rhythm and jazz scene continued to grow out of brothels and dives - which happened to be where other immigrants and underdogs commiserated, with cannabis. Eventually, as jazz grew in popularity with the kids, all that fun couldn’t be contained underground.
Kids of all kinds love to dance and party, and that’s what worries The Man. The Man goes by many names, but this time it was Harry Anslinger who didn’t mince words when explaining The Man’s position:
"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."
As drug policies expanded across North America, along with protests and politics around race equality through the 1940s - 1960s, lawmakers began to channel their thinly-veiled racism into the enforcement policies. By every measuring stick, the War on Drugs targeted a significantly disproportionate amount of African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native people. And before we start feeling all high and mighty as the Canadians in the audience, as recently as two years ago, the Toronto Star revealed that cannabis arrests in the city are still glaringly disproportionate.
While it may seem to some that cannabis went from a potential election issue to legal in the blink of an eye, there are many would-be, non-violent cannabis entrepreneurs who are still under custody for something that is very legal today. No matter how you feel about crimes and timelines, it seems inescapable that some successful players in the cannabis industry today could easily have been watching the scene from behind bars had their skin been a different colour when that cop confiscated their teenage stash.
So what can you do about it? Hire someone with a record. Flex your networking skills with a diversity of groups and enjoy broadening your perspectives. If you’re in Canada, follow Cannabis Amnesty and send a letter to your MP about it. If you’re in the US, check out NDICA. We’re big fans of colour and diversity, and we hope you are too.