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Mindful Revolution: Staying “Woke” with Cannabis During the Nu Jim Crow Era

By Shellise Rogers

FOCUS by Maria Lau

Gently floating through the air of private homes, apartments, social gatherings, and street corners. Slipping between the millions of dollars being collected by states across the country, the billions collected by the DEA, and pungent on the breath of countless people arrested for having small amounts. Relaxing the minds of those looking to unwind from a long day’s work, or from the world, and its trauma porn depicted in the mistreatment and exploitation at the hands of a sometimes violent criminal-justice and capitalistic system. Alleviating thousands from thoughts of the hate group rallies that glide across our social media timelines. An aromatic flower with hairs and scintillating crystals that has been present for centuries and has many times fostered cross-cultural conversations about racial, social and economic injustice, the recasting of our cultures, our overall health, and pushing back against prejudice by conceptualizing a suitably regulated system for it all.

Cannabis has been known to alter a person’s perceptions. To be “Woke” means to be keenly aware of what is going on in the community. It ruffles the spirit of complacency that settled into the homes of those who survived the civil rights era, and awakens them to the fact that Racism and Jim Crow laws were never eradicated. They simply changed form.

Are you still sleep? Or are you woke?

The Hard truth is: We have all been deceived. Systematically misled about what cannabis is and does, left estranged from information alluding to its effects on our bodies and minds – deluded by decades of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy. Our lives so deeply embedded, comfortably coddled in the delusion within the systems of oppression that are so complex, most of us hardly know it’s there. We can’t ignore what’s right outside our front doors, in our faces at each corner, and under our noses.

Richard Nixon’s former Chief Advisor John Ehrlichman said, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” (1)

African and Latin American people have been stigmatized with the negative connotations of “marijuana.” In this “other” America, punishments are disproportionately enforced by the War on Drugs. “A Black person was 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person — a disparity that increased 32.7% between 2001 and 2010.” (2)

Consistent with how our president views D.A.C.A., there is no consideration of inclusion or reparation on a state or federal level for the use of “Jim Crow” laws that enforce segregation and exclude communities destroyed and ensnared in the criminal justice system by the War on Drugs from profitable participation in the cannabis industry.

The civil rights movement failed to secure or find a solution to economic mobility for the “other” America where thousands still exist living at staggering rates of unemployment, poverty, and a lack of opportunity. Ask yourself, “How is it that my government swindles money off cannabis while still keeping the criminal marijuana laws that persecute minorities intact?”

The Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by President Richard Nixon, is our country’s federal drug policy; it places all regulated substances under existing federal law into one of five schedules. The placement of a substance is based on its medical use, the potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determine which substances are added or removed from these Schedules.

Cannabis, a Schedule I substance, is listed beside other substances such as Heroin, LSD, and Meth. This means these substances have a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use or other substance under medical supervision.” Meanwhile, Marinol – a synthetic version of THC that’s prescribed to control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and in stimulating appetite in AIDS patients — is classified as a Schedule III substance. Meaning: it is viewed as having “less potential for abuse,” “a currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and a “moderate or low physical dependence or psychological dependence” from any abuse of the substance. (3)

You are still “sleep” if you think healthcare and public well-being must be a priority for our local and state governments for twenty-nine states as well as the District of Columbia to have medical marijuana programs. There must be a reason why, amongst these states, eight of them have legalized “Adult” (aka Recreational) Use, downplaying Federal rulings of the Controlled Substances Act. Perhaps they’re addicted to tax revenue and corporate interests.

Eventually, legalization and de-scheduling will happen from the pressure for freedom and democracy, or the outcry against capitalist greed. Awakening the masses by contradicting our blind trust in the government’s commitment to the public’s best interests and providing a space of curiosity are documentaries such as What the Health by Kip Andersen, Prescription Thugs by Chris Bell, 13th by Ava DuVernay, and Requiem For The American Dream by Noam Chomsky.

If you have a goldmine, there will be a point in the goldmine where you have the richest part which is called the motherlode. Within the cannabis community there are countless conversations, case-studies, and research being completed about how cannabis affects our ways of thinking and seeing the world differently. Those within that society study how we can utilize the legalization of cannabis and hemp to make interventions that address the housing, financial and employment needs of low-income populations, and how to use the cannabis plant to engage in ways that actively challenge the world we live in. These efforts are catalyzing change for the progression of all people through community effort. The goldmine of this movement is indeed the revenue—but the motherlode, the concentrated essence of the spirit of cannabis, is revolution.

Medisi Ventures is a social impact enterprise that utilizes impact investing and consulting to ensure the legalized cannabis industry has a long-lasting positive effect on our society. TiYanna Long, the founder of this enterprise, informs us that, “New and booming industries change the face, structure, and identities of cities. An increase in economic power has often come at the detriment of already struggling communities. Cannabis legalization is creating a new economic power and is going to have a massive impact and affect housing, transportation, education, healthcare, and so much more. It is up to us, as the cannabis community to ensure we are covering all of our bases as we build this foundation. Sustainability is the goal.”

We entice advocates and activists to stand together. One of the greatest weapons and strengths of the civil rights era wasn’t nonviolent protest. It was community and solidarity. There are common threads between all of our differences and struggles that bring us together as humans. We can’t solve our country’s problems using the same kind of thinking that was used to create them. We shift the paradigm together much stronger than we do individually. We should all strive to heighten our consciousness and overcome our egos.

We are the disinherited of this land and we have weapons in our hands. Chiefly, the weapon of protest against social, racial, and economic injustice. We will secure our rights as American citizens and have a seat at the table of economic opportunity. If we are wrong, the Constitution is wrong. If we are wrong, our congress, the DEA and the FDA is wrong. If we are wrong, nature itself is wrong.


Shellise Rogers aka SISTAH ROGERS is a multifaceted social justice activist and political advocate who volunteers. She holds safe listening spaces emboldening women of color, speaking on topics such as Financial Literacy, Emotional and Mental Health, and Physical wellness through Holistic healing, while addressing complex cultural issues. Follow her on Instagram at @sistahrogers.

Sources:

1 LoBianco, Tom. “Report: Nixon’s war on drugs targeted black people.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/03/23/politics/john-ehrlichman-richard-nixon-drug-war-blacks-hippie/index.html. Accessed 7 Sept. 2017.

2 Edwards, Ezekiel, et al. The War on Marijuana in Black and White. ACLU, New York, NY, 2013, pp. 1–185, The War on Marijuana in Black and White.

3 Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs. Recommendation to Maintain Marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. 20 May 2015, www.scribd.com/document/326538608/Why-the-FDA-thinks-marijuana-isn-t-medicine.

**A version of this article appeared in print in Honeysuckle Magazine’s CANNABIS issue. Order copies here or find one near you with our Store Locator.

Stay tuned for more stories from our CANNABIS issue and the community!

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