Photo credit: FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP/Getty Images

We asked cannabis industry thought-leaders, “ganjapreneurs”, and “puffragettes” the following question about the intersection of social justice and drug policy reform. Their responses are targeted critiques of the United States’ failed drug war…

What social justice and/or criminal justice reforms do you want the United States to make around its drug policy, particularly around cannabis?

Ultimately, we’re fighting to end the drug war globally and regulate all drugs according to their harms and geographic context. Most urgently, ending cannabis prohibition, implementing harm reduction measures such as syringe exchange and drug checking, and ending the criminalization of drug users will rapidly advance human rights in drug policy. – Betty Aldworth, Executive Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

“We’re fighting to end the drug war globally and regulate all drugs according to their harms” – Betty Aldworth

It should be legal for adults to cultivate, possess, and purchase cannabis. Punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol is irrational and devastates families, involves glaring inequalities, and derails futures. For minors, marijuana should be a non-criminal offense that does not result in incarceration, and both minors and adults should be allowed to use medical cannabis. – Karen O’Keefe, Director of States Policies, Marijuana Policy Project

“It should be legal for adults to cultivate, possess, and purchase cannabis.” – Karen O’Keefe

If I were creating the perfect set of policies for cannabis in the US, I would roll us back to the early 1900’s, where cannabis was a medicinal plant used across cultures, as it is today, but people were not penalized for doing so, and the cultivation of cannabis was done under the sun, by farmers. Once cannabis and its use was connected to fear (use by Mexican immigrants), the lunacy of prohibition began. We can move legalization and cannabis policy far, but we cannot undo that underlying fear, we can only hope to outgrow it with time. – Dr. Amanda Reiman, Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy, Drug Policy Alliance

“We can move legalization and cannabis policy far, but we cannot undo that underlying fear, we can only hope to outgrow it with time.” – Dr. Amanda Reiman

Please stop the mass incarceration particularly targeted towards the black community. – Dr. Daniela Vergara, Co-Founder Cannabis Genomics Research Initiative

Legalization and regulation of cannabis is the least we can do to begin making up what has happened since Nixon started the Drug War.   On top of that we should throw out any old convictions/records for cannabis possession and sale. – Wendy Mosher, Co-Founder and CEO, New West Genetics

“We should throw out any old convictions/records for cannabis possession and sale.” – Wendy Mosher

If I could choose one area where the US must change the drug policy in their effort to prevent so-called more drug abuse, [it would be] to acknowledge a core deficiency: the Mental Health issues and lack of access to healthcare services. The challenge with minorities, who are the most socially impacted, is overcoming the stigma associated with cannabis. – Drayah Sallis, Founder, Our Cannabis Culture

“The challenge with minorities, who are the most socially impacted, is overcoming the stigma associated with cannabis.” – Drayah Sallis

I want the US to encourage economic justice alongside criminal justice. This means not only do we stop destroying communities through prohibition, we also allow those same communities a voice and a role in the new regulated market. – Shaleen Title, Co-Founder, THC Staffing Group

Stop using incarceration as a way to generate revenue.  Privatized prisons must go because they create incentives to send people to jail, keep them there, and deprive them of family and culture… Sending people to jail for any drug offence that doesn’t include violence (like carrying an ounce of marijuana) means dependents go hungry, children are denied parental care, and a cycle of poverty is propagated or continued.  – Jeanine Moss, Co-CEO/Founder, AnnaBis Style

“Stop using incarceration as a way to generate revenue.” – Jeanine Moss

I would hope and expect policy and lawmakers to ask questions and make educated decisions based on all the facts. For instance, when it comes to criminal offenders, I question lawmakers who have determined that the socio-economic impact of a ‘pot-dealer’ is the same as that of a murderer – tragically in many states those two types of offense lead to very similar sentences. – Giadha Aguirre DeCarcer, Founder and CEO, Frontier Financial Group Inc.

Breaking down archaic and ineffective marijuana laws is vital to ending the failed drug war. The public clearly thinks the status quo isn’t working; it’s time for a change. No one should be jailed for a plant, period. And the first step to ending the war on drugs is to legalize the medical and adult use of marijuana. – Lindsay Robinson, Director of Development, Marijuana Policy Project

“No one should be jailed for a plant, period.” – Lindsay Robinson

One of the best things that could happen for the industry would be for cannabis to become federally legal. This would allow us to able to bank legally… This would also allow us to have tax deductions and free those in prison for non-violent acts involving cannabis… [I]t would also significantly increase people’s knowledge surrounding the medicinal properties of cannabis – Karin Lazarus, Owner, Sweet Mary Janes

Cannabis prohibition – and our failed drug policies writ large – have inflicted immeasurable damage around the world, on both an individual and societal level. We should end the criminalization of cannabis, taking away an unjust weapon that has been wielded disproportionately against people of color and lower socio-economic status. And we should create legal, regulated cannabis markets, taking the power away from criminal cartels and building opportunities for innovation, transparency, and socially conscious entrepreneurship. – Taylor West, Deputy Director, National Cannabis Industry Association

“We should create legal, regulated cannabis markets, taking the power away from criminal cartels and building opportunities for innovation, transparency, and socially conscious entrepreneurship.” – Taylor West

I believe that we must de-schedule—not re-schedule—cannabis. I want to see this product respected as the healing plant that it is, and allow patients to benefit from its therapeutic potential. Re-scheduling cannabis will allow big business to dominate the emerging market, perpetuating systems of racial and economic inequality cemented by mass incarceration and the war on drugs. Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act will help reverse the course of systemic criminal convictions for marijuana possession. De-scheduling cannabis honors the movement’s values; re-scheduling will ultimately bolster corporate control. – Jaime Lewis, Founder and Executive Chef, Mountain Medicine

“De-scheduling cannabis honors the movement’s values; re-scheduling will ultimately bolster corporate control.” – Jaime Lewis

One policy that sticks out most to me is drug testing for a job. Companies like Wal-mart that employ mostly low-wage workers, which often translates to people of color, are still drug tested for marijuana. Legal prescription drugs like fentanyl and alcohol leave your system within 24 hours and are killing people in the US at astronomical rates, but an employer wouldn’t know if their new hire had a problem if they took a urine test after that 24-hour window. Marijuana on the other hand, which has no reported links to overdose, can stay in your system for up to two weeks. Drug testing for marijuana is hypocritical and racist, to say the least. – Laila Makled, Chair, Women Grow DC

“Drug testing for marijuana is hypocritical and racist.” – Laila Makled

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series on social justice in the cannabis industry…

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