4/20 is canceled until all non-violent cannabis offenders are released and records are expunged

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much of a bubble we live in here in California. Well, until you turn on the news that is, and are instantly reminded that this sunny little pot-friendly utopia is not really a reality anywhere else. Being born and raised in the Bay Area I forget that not a lot of people grew up celebrating holidays like 4/20 at their local park or aspiring to write for a company that sells weed lube to women but hey, we are who we are.

There are a lot of inconsistencies between the way California does things in comparison to other states, but things get especially intense when you start to address an issue as complex as cannabis and industry inclusion.

Here’s the latest— last year, only 2 years after the legalization of marijuana in California, the cannabis industry brought in an estimated $345 million dollars in tax revenue from cannabis sales alone. Meanwhile according to the American Civil Liberties Union, as of 2018 cannabis still accounts for 50% of ALL drug arrests in the United States to this day.

How does that make sense, you ask? Simple, it doesn’t.

How is it that at any given time, I can download an app on my phone and within 30 minutes have up to an ounce of weed legally delivered to my doorstep – while at the same time, just two states over, some kid, likely black, is being arrested and sentenced to time in federal prison for being caught with half of a joint in their pocket that they weren’t even actively smoking.

Upon realizing the dichotomy between the legalization of cannabis in some states, and the continued criminalization of it in other parts of the country, a lot of us want to point the finger at Richard Nixon; who in 1971 did his -not so-due diligence at addressing the drug problem in America by declaring drug abuse “Public Enemy Number One”

Ironically, I think the consensus is now clear on the fact that the real public enemy at that time was Nixon himself – but put a pin in that one we’ll come back around to that point later.

“The War on Drugs” was thus enacted in order to achieve one simple goal; To create and encourage “A world without drugs”. Right. Some good that did. In fact, that’s the only thing it DIDN’T do. Many problems we associate with drug use are actually caused by the war against them. Prohibition doesn’t decrease the demand; it only ensures that the supply will find smarter more cunning ways to distribute to the market. Duh. Clearly, Nixon didn’t hang around many economists. Or drug dealers for that matter.

The War on Drugs single-handedly led to a mass incarceration epidemic, political destabilization and corruption, and unprecedented violence to black and brown communities.

Millions of lives have been, and continue to be, negatively affected by the current drug policies and classifications in place that started with the war on drugs. And allow me to reiterate the fact that we’ve literally never been further from achieving its original goal.

So how is it that we’re still having this conversation? The cat is out of the bag; this plan does not work as a viable way to combat drug abuse – not to mention the fact that this is a plant we’re talking about here. One that has been medically proven to heal, and transform lives in ways that traditional western medicine has failed us.

How is it that in a country of *arguably* some of the most educated human beings of our time, we still feel it necessary to put this PLANT in the same category as heroin and methamphetamine? Are we as a country so incredibly inept to not be able to see this for the gross injustice that it is in and of itself? Even if you choose not to smoke cannabis yourself, are we still seriously entertaining the idea that you can reasonably compare it to meth?

Granted, I’d like to take this moment to highlight the fact that in this county of “educated” human beings we still are having trouble making sense of the fact that paying a woman the same amount of money that a man makes for the same amount of work, is a reasonable request. So I suppose the resounding answer is “yes.” Logic is not nearly as readily available in this place as one might hope.

With cannabis legalization slowly spreading across the U.S. and the success of drug decriminalization in other parts of the world like Portugal and Uruguay, it is clear that the war on drugs has failed.

So what do we do now? Where are the reparations for the millions of lives that have been negatively affected by the gross injustice that is, the American government?

While there are a handful of initiatives currently being pushed in California to ensure those that have been unjustly incarcerated for marijuana charges – are guaranteed a seat at the table once the money starts being served – There is still a long way to go on the national and global scale as far as reparations are concerned.

It goes without saying, that the reason behind something as ass backwardly vicious as The War on Drugs was enacted not because drug use was the number one threat, but because Black and Brown people were. Let there be no confusion or question as to what the driving force behind these laws and policy’s has always been, punishment, separation, and the disempowerment of Black and Brown communities.

If a solution to the “Drug problem” was really what they were hoping to solve, you’d think, they’d ease up after a decade or two of failure. Maybe we’d start to think of some new ways to go about the issue?

If you want to eradicate drug abuse you treat the addiction with rehabilitation – not punishment. Just look at Switzerland who’s been doing it successfully for years. Now, if your goal is to disempower a whole generation of people, well, you over police their communities and imprison all of their men and boys- never actually providing them with the help or rehabilitation they need – so that ultimately the family unit is fractured beyond repair and the cycle of struggle and lack continues to rear its ugly head.

The systemic disempowerment mentality that has been practiced throughout POC communities is similar to the way the media tries to separate cannabis in the eyes of the public imagination. CBD vs. THC, aka “The Good Guy and the Bad Guy” or the way we have for millennia tried to separate and categorize the female narrative. The Madonna and whore complex. As if we cannot be intrinsically both at the same damn time. We are ALL encompassing; everything at once, and more beautiful BECAUSE of it. You cannot put us in a box. The same goes for the cannabis plant. We’re just beginning to understand how this plant works at play in our own bodies and I can guarantee you that the “beneficial” aspects will go far beyond THC and CBD.

Ultimately, the intention behind the current drug policies was — and still is — disempowerment. Today, as women, as cannabis consumers, and as people of color we have to decide if we’re going to continue to wait on the same people to get their shit together and make some room for us at the table? Seems a little naive to me… We cannot continue to wait to be empowered by other people who have no interest in seeing us thrive. Wake up sleeping beauty – you are your own damn prince charming.

“There is still a lot to do to make the cannabis industry really inclusive.” said Javier Hasse, Journalist and Author of Start Your Own Cannabis Business. “As we build a new industry that reflects that reflects the ethos of our time, it’s important to emphasize equality and inclusion in all its forms.”

So what do we, the people, do about the vast inconsistencies between the booming cannabis industry and the criminalization of cannabis everywhere else in the world? As women and as people of color let us continue to educate ourselves on the complexities of this industry so that we can put ourselves in positions to create more opportunities for the empowerment of our people.

I will leave you with this—

I am not here claiming to have all of the answers or solutions but I am here to provide you with an opportunity to wake up and empower yourself and your communities. We need to look in the mirror and seriously ask ourselves, are we going to remain victims of circumstance or are we going to be active agents of change?

Sincerely yours,
Imán B. Lewis