February 10, 2021 4 min read
As cannabis becomes an ever growing industry and increasingly popular, it is important to kick it back a few decades and analyze the massive shift in mindset around marijuana. The War on Drugs movement (Nixon era) that began in the 1970’s identified cannabis to be equally as dangerous as other drugs like cocaine or heroin. With vast research available on cannabis and the marijuana industry, several decades have gone by and only now is cannabis being treated with respect along with those that choose to use it. There is no denying that the Black community, especially Black men, have suffered immeasurable pain and mistreatment often receiving much harsher prison sentences as compared to whites. With sweeping marijuana legalization happening all across the United States, times have changed and it’s about time we recognize those that have fought hard for this moment, especially Black individuals that deserve recognition for laying much of the groundwork in the cannabis industry. Here is a short list of Black History Month people in cannabis that you should definitely pay attention to, so grab your best bong and make sure you are nice and comfy for this one!
Well before modern times, the 1920s Jazz era was in full swing. The Cotton Club was a very popular spot in Harlem that was known for housing talented Black Jazz musicians to play for predominantly white audiences. Cab Calloway was amongst one of many Black Jazz musicians to gain popularity with his presence in the Jazz scene, and his hit “Reefer Man” speaks to the stoner souls everywhere. Cab Calloway was iconic not only because he was singing about smoking weed everyday before Snoop Dogg, but because of everything he stood for as a Black Jazz musician. The Cotton Club was created as a safe space for Black performers to craft their talent and shows how far they’ve come as many were descendents from slaves. Interesting fact: slave owners used to pacify their slaves by supplying them with cannabis, which further shows how long marijuana has been around and not harmful the way the War on Drugs era has painted for the misinformed.
It is important to note that glaringlies were spread during this time period with absolutely no facts to support those statements, like Harry Anslinger (first commissioner of Federal Bureau of Narcotics) who believed that marijuana was a drug for Black men to seduce white women or promote interracial relationships. It is even more important to note that cannabis became illegal in 1937 mostly due to racism and community leaders like Anslinger.
Also known as Satchmo or Satch, Louis Armstrong was another influential Black Jazz musician that also happened to be a lifelong pot smoker. Armstrong was very well known throughout his life and indeed was a cannabis enthusiast, referring to weed:
“It makes you feel good, man. It relaxes you, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you are with another tea smoker it makes you feel a special sense of kinship.”
Armstrong was full of life and truly made a difference during the Jazz movement with marijuana, but even he was not exempt from a Black man’s fate when in possession of weed. Armstrong was arrested outside of a club for marijuana possession and was a testament to just how difficult it was and still is to be targeted as a Black man.
In current times, there are many Black leaders in the cannabis industry who are forging a path for themselves and others. Roz McCarthy is the Founder and CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, which is focused on advocacy, education and outreach in various aspects of the cannabis industry. Similar to a marketing agency, McCarthy created a nonprofit organization to give people of color the opportunity to be part of the cannabis industry and learn what this market is about. With a presence throughout 15 states nationwide, McCarthy has made some groundbreaking accomplishments for the Black community and ensuring Black men and women have just as much opportunity as the next person.
The owner of Mary and Main, Hope Wiseman, is the youngest Black woman dispensary owner in the nation. Her main goal of opening a dispensary was to target those that have chronic and debilitating illnesses and provide them some much needed relief. Hope Wiseman is an exceptional woman who is also known for giving back, like becoming the co-founder for her alma mater’s Habitat for Humanity chapter. Her entrepreneurial skills shine through not only through her work but throughout the community and specifically uses her platform to create opportunities for minorities that have been affected by the war on drugs.
The owner of Apothecarry, Whitney Beatty offers luxurious cannabis products in discreet packaging, something that the cannabis industry has never really seen and changed the whole game. Whitney Beatty’s approach to the cannabis world is looking at it beyond being a smoker but rather becoming a conscious consumer. Marijuana does not have to be an activity where you get high and dysfunctional, but more of a healing experience that can elevate and enhance your life in more ways than imagined. The Apothecarry is symbolic for the changes the Black community has always done - through innovation, creativity and staying true to cultural roots, an experience was formed that went well beyond lighting up a joint.
>While this list is short, we highly encourage you to do your own research on Black History Month people as there is an entire world of information regarding the Black community and marijuana. This dates way back to before cannabis even existed in the United States. We are figuring out that history books are not always accurate and there are many other stories that still need to be told. We hope with education and a desire to learn the truth will help pay tribute and recognize the true leaders in cannabis. Black History Month should also be celebrated all-year long, rather than just 28 days so keep this same energy when lighting up a joint to learn more about the truth and roots about Mary Jane!
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