As more markets enter the cannabis industry, the social inequalities that exist in the United States workforce are likely to roll over into this new field. Indeed, the burgeoning industry is not immune to the domination of rich white men. It’s not immune to excluding people of color, especially women. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Politicians are upping their game and talking more about legalization. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as a scheduled drug. Booker’s move recently won the support of California Senator Kamala Harris, who tweeted May 10: “The fact is, marijuana laws are not applied and enforced in the same way for all people. That’s why I’ve signed onto @CoryBooker’s Marijuana Justice Act to make marijuana legal at the federal level. It’s the smart thing to do.”
The Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Jobs and Justice Act, which includes creating a “reinvestment fund for communities most impacted by the war on drugs.” New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has called for cannabis licenses to be a “form of reparations,” as pushed forward by The Movement for Black Lives.
Within the cannabis industry, women of color are paving the way for innovation, inclusivity and progress. Many have generational roots in the black market, which we don’t pay enough tribute to (even though what was and is underground helped shape the legal marketplace), as well as to cannabis-related incarceration. These women are bringing holistic approaches to nonprofits, health and wellness, tourism, media and entertainment, and more.
While it’s critical to understand the full picture of cannabis, which includes policing and prisons, it’s just as important to celebrate marginalized people. To help amplify their voices, Big Buds talked to 33 women of color working at some capacity in cannabis — whether it’s through a dispensary, publication or advocacy organization — about their favorite parts of the industry, as well as what and who inspires them. Here is what they had to say.