On July 22nd, wellness brand Miss Grass and cannabis collective Humble Bloom hosted a unique virtual conference with a multitude of panelists and moderators. Entirely focused on the movement for Black lives (and with all proceeds going directly to benefit a nonprofit of the same name), the Allyship + Weed Summit featured a variety of qualified professionals in the cannabis industry. One particular panel encompassed more than a legal perspective from our local politicians, cannabis lawyers and long-time activists in the cannabis community. “PUBLIC POLICY: FLIPPING ECONOMICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL, POLITICAL, & SOCIAL PARADIGMS” gently filled the gaps between the average activist or cannabis enthusiast and provided simple steps to getting more involved in policies that can actually change state regulations in a realistic way.

Allyship is a necessary key component to the cannabis community because minorities are clearly underrepresented. In addition to the systemic prejudice towards Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in regards to cannabis, that should be used as a tool to rebuild the communities that were directly affected by law enforcement for cannabis related crimes.

Reflecting on the panel, every detail is etched into one’s memory and the discussion is fully present. This array is unlike any other because not only are the panelists from a wide selection of backgrounds, but their abilities and experiences with like-minds produce original thoughts, creating atmospheres for these professionals to express themselves freely, while embarking on new questions as moderators to entice answers the panelists may have not heard themselves say before. Mona Zhang, panel moderator, cannabis policy reporter at Politico and Founder of Word on the Tree, presents thoughtful panel topics, such as, “How do you go about balancing your ideals as an advocate?”

Cannabis attorney Jessica F. Gonzalez. Courtesy of the Allyship + Weed Summit

Specializing in cannabis law and trademarks, attorney Jessica F. Gonzalez approaches allyship with solution-based thinking. Jessica simply states, “Equity is essential in legalization.” She reveals it is something a lot of people struggle with, adding, “A lot of these idealistic views do not come with practical avenues of possibility, if advocates really want to get to the meat of what happens, as opposed to just cheering. Sometimes, we make the assumption that these politicians understand our situations as much as we do.  If we can’t approach them with real solutions, we can’t rely on our own legislators to just make it happen.” Allowing this perspective is taking on the responsibility of presenting politicians with solutions to our problems, instead of leaving the issues with them. “If you really want to press this issue do so, but come to the table with solutions in practical terms.  Regardless, we are going to have to compromise.”

Ms. Gonzalez reminds us to maintain our expectations through this process. “This may not go perfectly the first time around. We have to be able to lay a foundation first, in order to get certain things, but that doesn’t mean to compromise on your ideals. We have to approach politicians with solutions in terms that they can understand.” This demonstrates the importance of creating reasonable standards while maintaining the sense of service to one’s own community. 

Karim Webb, CEO of 4THMVMT. (C) Waipi8 / CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

Over the course of the panel, it was amazing to observe the range of backgrounds for activists in the cannabis space, which provided for a plethora of perspectives when it comes to areas that could use improvement, as well as those that are going strong and will continue to do so. Karim Webb, CEO of 4THMVMT, a social justice organization that fights for communities impacted by institutional racism, is a cannabis activist for many years on the West Coast. A trailblazing restaurateur turned community activist who has been featured in Forbes and the LA Times among other major outlets, he is a trusted voice, knowledgeable in cannabis, specifically social equity. When asked his opinion on the current situation of allyship in Los Angeles, he replies, ” I don’t think that they are finished yet, the jury is still out. There is a divergence on what the definition is in regards to social equity in cannabis.”

Identifying the lack of universal meaning presently, whether you are speaking to a policy maker or regulator, Webb comments on current social equity limitations. “In order to leverage the word equity, this program needs to be successful enough that the benefits themselves are ‘equitable.’ What we need to know is the people from certain communities that have been disproportionately impacted are then compensated, living equitably and their communities. How much of that money is going to people of color?”

This is precisely the bigger picture of social equity in cannabis. Not only is it essential for the terms of equity to be discussed then agreed upon, but individuals and communities that have been impacted should be entitled to respective compensation.

Equity is more than an income; it is the opportunity for exponential growth from investments in an industry that has been more than personal from the beginning. 

New York City public defender and candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Eliza Orlins (recognizable for her adventures on the TV shows Survivor and The Amazing Race) is the third speaker on the panel and a true standout. Eliza has worked pro-bono for over 3,000 cases in New York City; her experience in our legal system and passion for the underdog is unparalleled. 

“Protests catalyze change,” she says. 

Ms. Orlins is clearly looking for change and is one of the few, if not, the only candidate for Manhattan DA, with a background dedicated to helping people and specifically looking to benefit the cannabis community here. She states, “We have a unique opportunity in New York to actively dismantle these systems that are put in place to suppress black indigenous and people of color, we have a responsibility.” This sense of obligation to our own environments is crucial as we see the impact of individuals with an organized plan of action. She reminds us that “so many people are waking up to that and how critical elections are. There is such a wide range of things that can be affected. As district attorney, we would be no longer prosecuting low level cannabis infractions, even if it hasn’t gone through the process. Local elections are critical.” 

The average advocate may be unaware of the power that local politicians have; while having trusted names in cannabis, we have a large source of knowledge to absorb, with an ever-changing list of regulations. We need to utilize every resource we have to ensure that we, as activists, are intentionally working together towards the same things. Knowledge is power, regardless of how many times we hear it, it’s applicable. Especially in our industry, which is still so new and evolving consistently.

Thank you, again to all the wonderful panelists, moderators, and presenters, and especially Miss Grass and Humble Bloom for an amazing selection of resources. In case you missed these panels and want to catch them, they are available by segment on Missgrass.com.

(C) Miss Grass / Humble Bloom

To learn more about Miss Grass, visit missgrass.com or follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. For information about Humble Bloom, visit humblebloom.co or follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can see more on Cannaclusive’s approach to accountability at cannaclusive.com (accountability list here) or follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Learn more about the Movement for Black Lives at m4bl.org, or follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.