by Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow, For New PIttsburgh Courier
Ten years ago, no one would have thought that Cannabis, aka Marijuana, would be entering into the legal marketplace throughout the United States. People, the fact is it is happening in various parts of the United States and at the current pace it is going to be legal in most states. Even as federal laws remain unchanged, most states have legalized some form of medical cannabis, and eleven states and the District of Columbia have changed their laws to regulate adult-use cannabis. Legally purchased Cannabis cannot be taken across state lines.
Cannabis comes in many forms, you probably remember getting high from joints, brownies and cookies, but it also comes in gummies, balms, and teas. Medically, it is used for anxiety and PTSD. Pain relief, such as for migraines, is a common use as well. Cannabinoids (CBD), provide many of the medical benefits, and have also been used as an aid in the treatment of cancer.
After all the incarceration of people affiliated with the use and the distribution of the drug it is so ironic. There has been a big waste of human capital and a destruction of careers and futures of some of the brightest talent we have put on this earth. Time changes things and things are certainly changing with these times.
The explosion in cannabis popularity has meant an explosion in cannabis products this decade. Because THC and CBD can enter the body in so many ways—smoking, vaping, ingesting, through skin—the number of products that can be made with it are, if not endless, certainly bountiful. Certain products, though, seem to be more prominent, or at least on the rise, than others.
With all the excitement we are naturally wondering where do we, as Black people, fit in. Is it going to blow right by us or are we going to be just consumers with no hint of entrepreneurship and ownership? For those of you who worry about this option let us assure you: We are going to be “knee deep” in the Cannabis industry. Many of us ponder about the opportunities of the past where they came and somehow went around us without any positive impact on our communities. Yes, there are many examples of blown opportunities and our worries can be somewhat justified. However, let us assure you that we are laying the groundwork to assure diversity will be a reality in the up and coming Cannabis industry.
The subject was given much attention at our last annual conference in Atlanta last summer. The people leading the charge in this effort are indeed professional and seasoned. They know where the whole thing is going and are sure to be there when the moment arrives. However, there are naysayers and doubters who are quick to criticize and shout DISCRIMINATION!
Pretty soon it is going to be “Showtime” in Illinois, and we want to make sure that this rollout will run smoothly and perhaps become a national model. Last fall Governor Pritzker pardoned over 11,000 ex-offenders who had been arrested for the use and/or sale of Marijuana. Then, effective January 1, 2020 dozens of establishments that had already been licensed to sell Cannabis for medical use were also licensed to sell it for recreational purposes. It was a smooth transition.
However, none of these medical carriers were Black and that led to paranoia by onlookers. They claimed outright bigotry! Local elected officials were sharply criticized for this misunderstanding. However, come this June another round of licensing will take place and that will become an excellent opportunity for Black inclusion.
As the saying goes, “We can diversify in the boardroom or else we can do it in the courthouse.” There will be diversity without exception. Discrimination in this arena will not be tolerated. Besides, the Governor and the mayors of the major cities within the state of Illinois have come too far in removing the racial barriers to let it return to the bad old days.
If you live outside of Illinois, you should contact our office and we can connect you with some of the principles of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce and perhaps a partnership can evolve and compete for the upcoming licenses. It will be expensive to get into the business, but the revenue and profit appear to be immense and without limit. There will be major players in the arena, but they will be instructed to partner with sources that will add to the diversity of the industry—SOCIAL EQUITY.
(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®. Kay DeBow is the co-founder, executive vice president of the Chamber.)