Did the Cannabis Industry Lose Its Way Before It Started?
The future of the US cannabis industry has always been uncertain. But is it possible that the cannabis industry has lost its corporate responsibility before it’s really gotten started?
On November 8, 2016, eight (8) more states voted to legalize cannabis. California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada legalized adult use (a.k.a. “recreational”) and North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas and Florida legalized medical use. As a result:
- 28 states and DC have legalized medical marijuana
- 8 states plus DC have legalized adult use of marijuana, including the entire west coast
- 56% of Americans now live in a state where some form of marijuana is legal
While 60% of Americans agree it is time to move beyond marijuana prohibition, the country is bitterly divided over who should lead the nation.
Filming in Oakland and Boston on Election Night 2016 was surreal. “Mary Janes” had a film crew in each state to follow our Puffragettes™ leading the campaigns there. As the cannabis votes came in, we filmed the elation. Campaign organizers posed for media photos, gave interviews and danced in celebration. But slowly many attendees started to realize that the presidential election was falling off a cliff.
The “one-issue” cannabis voters (meaning if a candidate is pro-cannabis they’re cool) continued to dance like it was 1999. The rest were shocked either because they realized how fragile the cannabis industry is under a fascist president, or they saw all human rights progress they thought they made start slipping away.
Overall, our film shoot ended with a feeling of “Yay, cannabis! WTF, America???”
I disagree with those who advise that we shouldn’t mix business and politics. Corporate responsibility is more important than ever and consumers want to know where their companies stand on key issues. In fact, I find it irresponsible for the cannabis industry to remain largely silent, especially since the main lobbying points to legalize marijuana are based on human rights, compassionate healthcare, social justice and sustainability.
I understand people are in shock, but the industry has largely focused on the uncertainty about an anti-marijuana Attorney General like Jeff Sessions instead of the other human rights abuses on which Trump and Pence campaigned.
As a filmmaker who came to the cannabis industry because I realized you couldn’t talk about cannabis without including gender parity, social justice and environmental sustainability, I’m disappointed. While some longtime advocates are speaking up, I am waiting for more businesses to take a stand.
Now is a moment of truth. We wait to see how the Constitution will be challenged and how our political and industry leaders will respond to the challenges ahead.
The future I envision for cannabis values environmental stewardship.
California’s Prop 64 included provisions to regulate the amount of water cannabis growers can use because the drought-ridden state understands the importance of an eco-sustainable industry. What will the cannabis industry do when the president-elect tries to roll back national EPA protections? Will we tolerate government-sanctioned destruction?
The future I envision for cannabis supports compassionate healthcare for all people.
Access to medical marijuana came out of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 while people were dying of HIV/AIDS. What will the cannabis industry do when politicians try to demolish the Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) that brings healthcare to millions of vulnerable people? Will we turn our back on everyone who needs compassionate care?
The future I envision for cannabis celebrates the LGBTQ community who are on the forefront of the movement.
While he was the governor of Indiana, VP-elect Mike Pence attempted to rebrand anti-gay bigotry as “religious liberty” and divert funding from HIV prevention to “conversion therapy”. What will the cannabis industry do when the administration tries to deny our LGBTQ neighbors the right to marry, work and even live? Will the industry forget its LGBTQ leaders and allies?
The future I envision for cannabis respects women as the professionals they are.
Images coming out of the 2016 Marijuana Business Conference and Expo include a scantily clad woman, lying on a platter, covered in charcuterie. Nothing says “we respect women” like literally treating her like a piece of meat. Contrast that with the fact that the industry has the highest amount of gender parity than any other industry: 36% nationally at last count, and states like Oregon are at 44%. Will all genders turn away from this demeaning behavior? If so, what other gender-based violence will they sanction? Name-calling? Groping? Rape? The president-elect wasn’t above such behavior. Are we?
The future I envision for cannabis includes immigrants and people of color.
Marijuana possession is the fourth (4th) leading cause of deportation, over half of the “drug busts” in the United States are for marijuana, and people of color are 3.7 times more likely to arrested for marijuana possession than Whites. Many state legalization efforts hoped to eradicate racial profiling and the prison-industrial complex by legalizing cannabis. How will cannabis leaders respond when the government tries to register, imprison, and deport legal immigrants or anyone who appears Muslim? What will the cannabis industry do when women’s hijabs are being ripped off their heads, police continue to shoot more people of color, and the KKK is hosting victory marches in the streets?
If you’re paying attention, the list of environmental and human rights abuses the new administration plans should be horrifying. It should also energize the “activist” part of you that brought the cannabis industry to where it is today, and encourage you to fight the next battle: for human decency in the United States.
“Make America Hate Again”?
No. The United States is fractured, but the cannabis industry can step up and lead by example. With compassion, justice, inclusion and respect. It’s time to take a stand.
This is the story I want to share with the world. It’s up to you to whether I can.