The US marijuana industry, despite the forces of evil in Washington that would destroy it, has become a booming, multibillion-dollar player in the economy. Soon, eight states will be fully legalized—not to mention Washington, DC, itself—and there are more on the way. With cannabis production and distribution morphing into a nationwide enterprise, opportunities abound in the green revolution. But before we celebrate, we need to confront a genuine concern: Will people of color and other minorities be left on the outside of the cannabis economy looking in?
The War on Drugs: A Racist Enterprise
It is estimated that only around 1 percent of legal cannabis businesses are owned or operated by minorities. The barriers that prevent inclusion are deeply ingrained—one might say they are systemic—and overcoming them is a formidable challenge. Fortunately, there are groups dedicated to the proposition that, while all men (and women) are created equal, there is work to be done to truly level the playing field of green that is expanding before our eyes.
The War on Drugs has been a racist enterprise from the beginning, punctuated by a rogues’ gallery of creeps from Harry Anslinger to Richard Nixon to Jeff Sessions. Drug-law enforcement has always targeted minorities, even though we’ve known for a long time that drug usage is fairly equal across ethnic groups. The result has been the rise of a racist carceral state that destroys lives, families and entire communities. It would be a terrible irony if the green revolution does not mature into an inclusive enterprise that redresses, to the extent that it can, the inequities that defined prohibition.
We sometimes forget that, while the legal weed market creates jobs, it also erases them. “We have to consider the fact we’re taking jobs away from these folks on the street who have been arrested,” says Kayvan Khalatbari, a Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) board member (and, as it happens, a High Times Holding Corp. shareholder). “They’re having trouble with more traditional jobs, employment, housing, things like that. Now we’ve taken away their jobs of selling cannabis and we’re not giving them an opportunity to participate in the regulated industry.”
Because racial biases are so often an emergent property of a free market, affirmative action to address discriminatory practices is usually driven from nonprofit interests, such as the MCBA, whose mission is “to create equal access and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses, their patients and the communities most affected by the war on drugs.”
Racial Parity Through Prop 64?
Proposition 64, the California initiative that ushered in the adult-use era in the Golden State, at least acknowledges the racial disparities that are attendant to the War on Drugs. While drug use is fairly uniform across racial lines, for some reason people of color are arrested and convicted at higher rates than white offenders. Provisions in Prop. 64 are intended to reduce the sentences of pot-law violators retroactively to 1996, when the state made medical pot legal. California cities are developing their own plans to be more inclusive, and less punitive.
Los Angeles, which will soon become the largest recreational-cannabis market in the world, is working on regulations intended to mitigate the blatantly racist effects of the Drug War.
“For so long, people that were black, people that were Latino, we have paid the price for this business,” City Council President Herb Wesson told the Los Angeles Times after a recent community forum in Watts. “And as we move this into the legal realm, it is important to us that we have a piece of the action.”
Because local governments in the Golden State are prohibited from giving preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity, mitigation efforts have to be framed as a means to address poverty and assist the victims of the failed War on Drugs. The proposed LA regulations would help the poor who were convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes and their families, as well as those who simply live in neighborhoods that had been slammed by marijuana arrests. The city will also dangle incentives in front of well-off cannabusinesses, offering tax rebates when they help out disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
San Francisco is also sorting out its regulations—in particular, a way to incorporate an equity program that will foster inclusion—in anticipation of the recreational market, but it is doubtful they will be codified by January 1, when Prop. 64 takes effect. City Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced a legislative proposal in September, and even he said “it needs more work.” The city is looking east, across the bay to Oakland, for guidance.
Oakland politicians looked at a number of possible equity plans before deciding to set aside half of the city’s permits for low-income residents (people who earn less than 80 percent of the local median income) who had been convicted of a minor weed offense or had lived at least 10 years in a neighborhood targeted for drug enforcement. While Oakland is the first in the state to develop an equity plan, San Francisco might build on it to make it even more inclusive—perhaps by using cannabis tax revenue to bolster communities hit by the Drug War, or by requiring every cannabusiness to submit equity plans of their own.
Transitioning from the Black Market to Legal Avenues
Beyond the municipal government initiatives, groups like the Hood Incubator (hoodincubator.org) are dedicated to helping “underground cannabis entrepreneurs” make the transition to legal markets. We caught up with Hood Incubator co-founder and political director Lanese Martin at a recent New West Summit in downtown Oakland. Martin, an intense and energetic woman who does not suffer fools gladly, says disparities in legal cannabis have their roots in a market that was illegal not so long ago.
“Because of the War on Drugs, black folks, unlike white folks, weren’t creating business plans, keeping receipts, putting on suits or going to their elected officials to lobby,” Martin declares. “We were still keeping in the shadows and hoping not to be persecuted and sought out by law enforcement, so we’re a little bit behind in the areas of mature businesses. But we’re not behind in having customers or in innovation in product development, so we need to capture that, and community organizing is key.”
Martin believes that some regulations within legalized regimes unfairly target people of color. For example, a jurisdiction that bans smoking or vaping in public housing in effect limits safe places for black and brown people to consume. “Without our interference, without our disruption, the legalization could turn into the re-criminalization of black and brown communities,” Martin says. “Or, a sexier way of putting it, the War on Drugs 2.0.”
Entering the Legal Cannabis Space Through Expungement
For many, step one in the transition into the legal marijuana trade is expungement, the erasing of a criminal record in places where the original offense—selling weed without hurting anybody—is no longer considered a crime. The MCBA (minoritycannabis.org) has been conducting expungement clinics across the country—in Seattle, Los Angeles and Portland, OR, with Denver and the East Coast scheduled for their own soon—with help from local law firms. A typical clinic will see a pool of potential applicants prescreened to see if they qualify for expungement, then paired with lawyers to guide them through the paperwork. The legal help is usually free or at reduced rate, and the various fees are paid by sponsors. “A lot of people don’t know they can expunge,” says the MCBA’s Khalatbari, “and it’s very expensive.”
The ideal expungement erases the original “crime,” with associated fines or penalties rescinded, and the expungement itself even expunged. One of the incidental side benefits of the green revolution, done properly, is that it can at least mitigate some of the injustices done in the name of the War on Drugs.
Supernova Women (supernovawomen.wordpress.com) is another East Bay nonprofit dedicated to fostering inclusion in the cannabis industry, or as the group puts it, “to empower our people to become self-sufficient shareholders in the evolving cannabis economy.” Not content merely to take on systemic racism, Supernova battles sexism at every turn as well. Among other things, the group hosts panel discussions that bring people together to explore what the cannabis world is like for people of color, “a safe space for hard conversations.”
“Let’s say you’re a manufacturer or cultivator trying to sell your product,” says Supernova co-founder Amber Senter, “you’re going to be dealing with white buyers, probably a man, and there’s sometimes issues. There’s definitely a good-old-boy network that happens just naturally in every industry, and cannabis is no exception. You’ve got to figure out how to kind of break into that.”
Senter says such blunt talk does not always sit well with everyone in attendance. “During the Q&A, a white gentleman in the audience stands up and says, ‘You know, you guys gotta lose this us-versus-them mentality. We’re just trying to help.’” Senter shakes her head. “Some people can’t stand hearing what we’re saying because they take it as a personal attack.”
Stigma and Pushback
When asked about fostering minority inclusion in the cannabis economy, a white male cannabusiness owner in Oakland offered an anonymous response that was indicative of a certain mindset. He thought it was wrong to push for diversity because affirmative action that favored minorities would distill the talent pool with people who might not be as qualified as those left out. He was not a fan of expunging criminal records of former weed dealers either. “Do we really want criminals in this business?”
There’s a lot of myopia in these sentiments. It is the cannabis-space equivalent of declaring that “all lives matter” as a retort to the harsh reality that people of color are disproportionately the victims of police brutality. The most charitable interpretation one can muster is that such people mean well, perhaps.
Roz McCarthy is the founder and executive director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana (minorities4medicalmarijuana.org), an Orlando-based nonprofit that promotes diversity in cannabis through outreach and education. She says the stigma of marijuana in the black community, in particular as it affects her 19-year-old with sickle-cell disease, inspired her to act. “He’s an African-American young man who, if he uses cannabis, could be labeled lazy or a drug offender or something of that nature. He’s not. He’s just a kid who has a medical condition who can benefit from cannabis, and that’s why I founded the organization.”
That stigma is ever-present, even as McCarthy brings a message of economic opportunity to the black community. “One thing we’re trying to teach people of color: You don’t have to touch the plant to thrive in this industry. Those ancillary services—accounting, marketing, what have you—create opportunities. Tap into your passion because there’s a need.”
Making Strides with Minority Groups
While advocacy organizations are new to the scene, they are proving to be invaluable, since it is no easy matter to simply legislate our way out of racial disparities in the marketplace. Witness Florida, which earmarked one of its 10 new medical-pot grow licenses for an African-American farmer. The state stipulated that the farmer had to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, but that restriction has cut out the many unaffiliated growers from contention, including Columbus Smith, a farmer from Panama City, who is suing the state. Per the lawsuit, “There is no rational basis for limiting the opportunity of black farmers to obtain a medical marijuana license to only the few members of that class of black farmers who are also members of a specific private association.”
Other states are grappling with the issue of equity with varying degrees of success. Maryland’s medical-pot rollout promised, by law, to seek “racial, ethnic and geographical diversity” in awarding the first 15 cultivation licenses in 2016, but in the end, none of the approved applications were from African-American owners. The state’s Legislative Black Caucus is pressing the General Assembly to pass a bill that expands the medical-cannabis industry to include African-American firms. A bill prepared by the caucus chairwoman is slated to be introduced on the first day the Assembly reconvenes, January 10.
Ohio requires that at least 15 percent of its licenses go to economically disadvantaged minority groups—blacks, Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans—but it remains to be seen how well these groups are ultimately represented or even whether the requirement itself will withstand legal challenges.
Things do not look great in Pennsylvania, where black people are arrested for weed violations at about eight times the rate that whites do, according to a recent report by that state’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is calling for full legalization to address this inequity, and the state’s Democratic Party recently adopted this position on its platform. Presently, the Keystone State has a limited medical-pot program set to launch in early 2018. Twelve firms won permits to grow and, although the state was the first in the nation to include a diversity requirement, African-American-owned grows did not score high enough to win a spot at the table. Since application costs reached as high as $750,000 each—for fees, attorneys, consultants, architects and so on—one can see how exclusion of disadvantaged groups is baked into the process.
Massachusetts looks to bring people into the nascent legal market who have been disproportionately harmed by drug enforcement. To address financial and other barriers to cannabusiness ownership, Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley has drafted legislation (in collaboration with the MCBA) that would direct 20 percent of unexpended revenue from weed taxes to equity programs. “If you say you are committed to addressing the growing wealth gap and income inequality, we have to ensure equity in enterprise and ownership,” Pressley told Boston Public Radio. “This is an opportunity for us to establish a blueprint.”
Ways to be Part of the Solution
One way for consumers to support minority businesses is to buy their products. There are organizations that track black-owned enterprises, such as shoppeblack.us, which has featured cannabis professionals worthy of attention and sponsorship. Because of the way information is shared these days, consumers can easily research whom they want to do business with.
There’s another way to be part of the solution. “If you see something, say something,” advises the MCBA’s Khalatbari. In other words, when you attend a cannabis conference or a public panel or any weed-themed gathering, and you notice that the participants or positions of leadership are overwhelmingly, uh, monochromatic, start the conversation.
It is encouraging to see support—from activists, voters and (some) legislators—for a more inclusive cannabis space. There’s no guarantee that a mature industry will be as diverse as it could be (as diverse as the country itself, for example), but with a little oversight and vigilance, we can set the path in that direction.
This feature has been published in High Times’ magazine, subscribe right here.
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1. What is CBD? What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring constituent of industrial hemp/cannabis. Its formula is C21H30O2 and it has a molecular mass of 314.4636. It is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and is being scientifically investigated for various reasons.
CBD oil is a cannabis oil (whether derived from marijuana or industrial hemp, as the word cannabis is the latin genus name for both) that has significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) contained within it. Our CBD products and extracts are derived from industrial hemp, so they could be considered CBD-rich hemp oil, hemp derived CBD oil, CBD-rich cannabis oil, or plainly “hemp extracts” since they typically contain much more than just CBD. Again, cannabis doesn’t mean marijuana, but is the genus name, and general umbrella term which all forms of marijuana and hemp fall under. The form of cannabis we use for our CBD and hemp extracts is industrial hemp; we do not sell marijuana.
2. If a hemp extract is 40% cannabinoids, what’s the other 60%? What’s in your hemp extracts besides the naturally occurring cannabinoids?
Our Kentucky hemp extracts contain over 80 different phyto-cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), CBC, CBG, CBN, etc.. In addition to the cannabinoids naturally present in our agricultural hemp extracts, there are also many other types of natural molecules and phyto-chemical compounds such as amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins (including B1, B2, B6, D), fatty acids (including omega 3 & 6), trace minerals (including iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavanoids, ketones, nitrogenous compounds, alkanes, glycosides, pigments, water, and terpenes. The most common terpenes in our hemp extracts are Myrcene, Beta-caryophyllene, Terpinolene, Linalool, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Nerolidol og Phytol, trans-alpha-Bergamotene, Limonene/ beta-Phellandrene (Co-elution), and alpha-Humulene.
3. What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?
Scientifically, industrial Hemp and Marijuana are the same plant, with a genus and species name of Cannabis Sativa. They have a drastically different genetic profile though. Industrial Hemp is always a strain of Cannabis sativa, while marijuana can be Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis. The major difference is how industrial hemp has been bred compared to a marijuana form of Cannabis sativa. Typically speaking, industrial hemp is very fibrous, with long strong stalks, and barely has any flowering buds, while a marijuana strain of Cannabis sativa will be smaller, bushier, and full of flowering buds. However, newer industrial hemp varieties in the USA are being bred to have more flowers and higher yields of cannabinoids and terpenes, such as our Kentucky hemp we’re now using!
99% of the time marijuana has a high amount of THC and only a very low amount of CBD. Hemp, on the other hand, naturally has a very high amount of CBD in most instances, and only a trace amount of THC. Fortunately, the cannabinoid profile of hemp is ideal for people looking for benefits from cannabis without the ‘high.’ Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and so much more, whereas marijuana is usually used just recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally. The term cannabis oil can refer to either a marijuana or hemp derived oil, since marijuana and hemp are two different forms of cannabis.
In the USA the legal definition of “industrial hemp,” per Section 7606 of the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2014, is “INDUSTRIAL HEMP — The term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”
4. Are hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD as good as CBD from marijuana?
The short answer is yes. CBD is CBD, whether from marijuana or hemp. Most marijuana has a very low non-psychoactive cannabinoid profile (like CBD, CBC, CBG), so most of the time hemp would be much more preferable for anything besides THC. Marijuana is usually very high in THC (gives people the high) but usually very low in other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
Nowadays in the USA, many farmers are growing industrial hemp flowers that are just as beautiful, odor-producing, and terpene rich as the best marijuana strains, such as our partnered farmers in Kentucky.
5. Why don’t you source your Hemp and CBD from within Colorado?
We feel that the hemp program in Kentucky is more well suited for our company in regards to growing hemp, and that because it’s 100% compliant with Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (and the 2016 Agricultural Appropriations Act), procuring it from there is perfectly legal at the federal level. Kentucky’s ecology is perfect for hemp just as it is for tobacco. The growing season is longer than in Colorado, and the soil is richer, so the quality of the hemp and the yields are better.
6. What’s the percentage of cannabinoids and CBD in your product?
Our raw extracts have varying percentages of cannabinoid and cannabidiol (CBD) content, the range being 10%-99%. Each product has a unique formulation and uses varying ratios of our extract types. Our CBD Isolate is over 99% pure CBD.
7. What is the best method of use?
For our dietary supplements we can only recommend them for internal consumption. Our CBD isolate is for research purposes only. If you don’t like the flavor of the oil supplements, you can mix with something sweet like apple sauce or honey to cut through the flavor.
8. What’s the ideal serving size for me, and how often should I take it?
There is no easy answer to this. Our starting recommended serving size is 15 drops but we generally recommend experimenting to see what feels best to you. Some prefer 5 drops, some prefer over 50 drops per day.
9. What is the safety of your hemp extracts? Are there negative side effects?
Hemp is considered by many to be generally safe. We’ve never seen or heard of any significant or negative side effects in our years in the industry. That said, we can’t rule them out. Please consult with your physician before using any dietary supplement including Hemp extract supplements.
10. Which of your CBD and hemp products should I get?
As a company who sells various dietary and food supplements, we can’t suggest any of our products for the prevention, treatment or cure of any disease or ailment.
When considering our different dietary hemp products, know that they all come in two strengths. Our Original Hemp blends (Classic Hemp Blend, Hemp Complete, Brainpower oil, & Signature Blend) all have 250+mg of cannabinoids per fluid ounce, and our concentrated blends have 1,500+mg per fluid ounce, six times the potency of our traditional oils. We’ve found that sometimes less is more, but nevertheless, some people like to take very large serving sizes of our hemp extracts.
The main difference between the four Original Blends is the additional herbal ingredients besides hemp. We suggest you research the separate components of each blend to determine which product may be most appealing to add to your dietary regimen. If you know it’s solely the hemp extract that you are looking for, with no additional ingredients, then Classic Hemp Blend or Classic Hemp 6x is what you’re looking for.
For dabbing and vaporizing or for research you can try our CBD Isolate.
THOSE WHO SUSPECT THEY MAY HAVE A DISEASE OR ARE SEEKING HELP FOR A DISEASE SHOULD CONSULT A QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.
11. Why do people use Hemp Extracts and CBD? What are the benefits and uses of CBD?
In accordance with federal regulations we cannot make health claims regarding our dietary supplement products. We can only recommend our products for general wellness.
12. Is a standard hemp seed oil the same as a high-CBD hemp extract?
Absolutely not. Standard hemp oil, which can be found very cheaply at a grocery store, is a much different product than our CO2 hemp extracts (not from seed). Standard hemp oil is produced by cold pressing the seeds, whereas our hemp extract is a supercritical CO2 extraction of the hemp plant itself, not the seeds. Hemp seed oil is considered to be a great nutritive food, but it doesn’t have the naturally occurring terpenes, cannabinoids and other components that our extracts do have.
13. Do I need to move to Colorado to get your Hemp Extracts and CBD? Where do you ship?
No. We actually source our hemp from Kentucky, as it’s legal to ship across state lines. Many people are under the impression that the only way to acquire hemp extracts and CBD for themselves or a loved one is to move to Colorado or another cannabis-friendly state. Many major news outlets are misinformed and are unfortunately spreading the idea that you can only get CBD oil in the states where medical marijuana has been legalized. This is simply not the case though. Because our extracts comes from hemp instead of marijuana, we can and do ship to all fifty states, and no medical marijuana card is needed. There are some exceptions, like with Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota we can’t sell our concentrated products due to state legislation.
We also ship to Japan, Australia, the EU, Switzerland, and Brazil. For all EU orders contact our exclusive distributor there, Cannawell.
14. Is your Hemp Extract Oil similar to Rick Simpson Hemp Oil?
Not quite. Ours are from hemp and RSHO is usually using marijuana, a different form of cannabis than industrial hemp. Our industrial hemp extracts are more standardized and will usually have a much higher content of non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD than one produced through the Rick Simpson method. And oils produced through his method will usually have a much higher THC content, as it’s typically marijuana that is used for RSHO.†
Generally speaking, most marijuana producers and sellers (especially on the black market) don’t test for contaminants (metals, pesticides, bacteria, etc.). Rick Simpson Hemp Oil is actually more a method of extraction than it is a specific product. People use the Rick Simpson method with hundreds of different strains of marijuana, so the THC, CBD and other cannabinoid content of the final oil is always varying greatly, depending on the cannabis the consumers are acquiring. Usually what’s used for Rick Simpson oil is a strain with an inferior CBD content (and high THC), because that’s what the vast amount of marijuana is nowadays.
15. Where do you source your hemp and CBD from?
We have partners in Kentucky who grew a dedicated plot for us this year (2016) which is being used in our products now. We also currently source from Europe but we’ll be changing that soon.
16. What kind of testing/analysis is performed on your products?
We have an industry leading quality control system, and we have third party laboratories analyze all of our hemp extracts and our final products for cannabinoid potency, heavy metals, bacterial and microbial life, mycotoxins (fungus), and pesticides.
17. What is CO2 extraction? What’s the difference between subcritical and supercritical CO2 extractions?
CO2 extraction is an extraction process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract phyto-chemicals (such as CBD, CBG, or terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) from a plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent, without the dangers of actually being one. It is the most expensive extraction method, and is widely considered the most effective and safest plant extraction method in the world.
Many hemp and CBD companies boast about their supercritical CO2 extractions, but that’s actually only one (and perhaps an inferior) method of using a CO2 extraction machine. There are also subcritical CO2 extractions, and ‘mid-critical’, a general range between subcritical and supercritical. Subcritical (low temp, low pressure) CO2 extractions take more time and produce smaller yields than super-critical, but they retain the essential oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical, on the other hand, is a high pressure and high temperature process that damages most terpenes and heat sensitive chemicals, but can extract much larger molecules such as lipids (omega 3 and 6), chlorophyll, and waxes. A truly full-spectrum CO2 extract includes first performing a subcritical extraction, separating the extracted oil, and then extracting the same plant material using supercritical pressure, and then homogenizing both oil extracts into one. In the essential oil industry, an extract made using this specific process is referred to as a CO2 Total.
18. What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?
“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, consisting of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.” Wikipedia
There are two main types of receptors in the ECS, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system and brains of mammals, and CB2 are generally found in the peripheral nervous system. There are two main cannabinoids mammals produce- 2AG and Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit term “ananda” which translates to “peace”).
For hundreds of millions of years every vertebrate on Earth has been equipped with this ECS, a crucial system in the body, and it has been known about in the scientific and medical communities since the 1980’s. However, it’s still not taught about in most medical schools.