Few industries embody the successes and ongoing struggles in the fight for social justice, legal reform and inclusion more than Colorado’s cannabis industry.
The pot industry is one that champions individual freedom and progressive values. It’s one whose pioneers, in many cases people of color, operated on the wrong side of the law prior to 2014 and who say now that they have been left out of the conversation as the industry has matured into a lucrative, socially acceptable and completely legal business sector. It’s an industry with customers of all races and ethnicities, all classes and creeds. But it’s one where consumers, particularly Black and Hispanic users, are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement in states where a legal market doesn’t yet exist.
This summer, as the Black Lives Matter protest movement has marched across the nation, a spotlight has been shone on the issues of systemic racism in law enforcement, along with disparities in economic opportunities for people of color. The cannabis industry in Colorado is listening and local groups are collaborating to make the business more equitable, more inclusive and more aggressive in taking a stand against prejudice in the justice system.
“We’re at a tipping point right now when it comes to social justice and criminal justice in our country,” The Color of Cannabis executive director Sarah Woodson said. “The reason why there’s a direct connection [between the BLM movement and the cannabis industry] is because people of color have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition. Right now, there are places in the United States where people are spending 15, 20 years in prison for cannabis possession.”
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