At this point, it makes sense if you ask “Where do we go from here?” Below are actionable steps to move us forward.
Dismantling cannabis prohibition, and the negative attitudes that it created and promoted, is critical to social justice. The “War on Drugs,” was a public agenda that demonized cannabis for political purposes. It punished those who use cannabis. Thus, victimizing the most vulnerable among us. This has created a moral debt owed to those harmed by years of prohibition. We can come together as an industry to help heal that pain. This will require encouraging fairness, diverse representation, and economic benefits that include everyone. There are many unique entrepreneurial opportunities offered within the burgeoning cannabis industry.
Cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform are very active issues for leaders and activists across the country. It is a great time to get involved and advocate for change! To start, it is critical to support decriminalization. It is high time we dismantled the legal framework that has caused so much pain to vulnerable communities. Criminalization has also prevented the medical and scientific communities from exploring and learning more about the benefits of cannabis.
At Ajoya, we believe that the cannabis community should embrace equity, reflect representation from all different kinds of voices, and advance social justice for all. For us, equity means making our community an open-minded and safe space for everyone. We also believe that our community should reflect and represent diversity. We also want to create opportunity for consumers, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders to be seen and heard. Social justice requires that we find ways, big and small, to ensure that our community shares resources, ideas, and values. This is especially important in support of the most vulnerable among us.
Working towards cannabis legalization everywhere is the first step in working towards dismantling the systemic injustices suffered by communities targeted by the War on Drugs. Going further, we also need to come together to advocate for empathic rebuilding of the communities and civic programs that were neglected and harmed by the War on Drugs. With so much taxation revenue coming from the legal industries across the country, many believe that we need stronger voices on how to use that revenue to rebuild and rejuvenate communities across the country. Your voice is critical to that discussion!1https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/reports/2019/05/20/470031/using-marijuana-revenue-create-jobs/
It is also important to create a space for businesses small and large who can share in the excitement and energy of a thriving industry. As well as to encourage representation and opportunity for those who come from communities that have suffered past injustices from prohibition. Consumers and entrepreneurs can come together to support initiatives for underrepresented voices in the industry by supporting education and dialogue that fills the void. We also need to create tangible opportunities to learn from each other.
With help from diverse voices, the cannabis industry can square the benefits of legalization with the consequences of historical criminalization. What are some specific things that activists can fight for?
One thing we can all do is advocate for federal, state and local governments to ease the process by which people can clear or expunge prior drug convictions. Collateral consequences of a drug-related arrest or conviction can a variety of impacts. These impacts include: keep individuals from accessing employment, housing, and education. In turn, impacting economic mobility and security. The War on Drugs brought on these inequities as well as decades of disproportionate arrests and punishments for nonviolent drug offenses.
We can all work to educate each other on the current state laws that allow for relief of clearing a prior record2https://ccresourcecenter.org, especially related to voting rights. We can also support organizations that assist in record sealing for everyone who is eligible.3 https://nationalexpungementweek.org
We can also work with our state and local governments to learn about and support any “social equity” programming in the cannabis industry to increase minority participation. This begins with identifying areas of impact from drug prosecutions. Then designing programs for bringing those who experienced direct or collateral impact into the industry. Such programming should promote education and small business support for those who need it to survive in a competitive industry. In addition to the creation of socially responsible systems for managing revenue, such that equitable distribution flows into communities disproportionately impacted by criminalization and prohibition.
Many among us have the skills to assist in this process. This could include using technology and data management to determine where prohibition hit communities the hardest. With this information, designate business opportunities and revenue towards those who would benefit the most. We can also support our teachers and educators in those communities to quantify budget shortfalls in our school systems, which will help to advocate for better reallocation of tax revenue.
Here are some additional resources for your journey!