As a brand in the cannabis industry, it feels disingenuous to promote CBD products for Father’s Day without also acknowledging that thousands of Black and Latinx fathers remain incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes, especially while brands today profit exponentially for doing exactly what those incarcerated were doing to support themselves and their families.
Far too often, cannabis consumption and sales are glorified, gentrified even, but there is little to no acknowledgement of the fact that Black and Brown Americans across the country remain incarcerated for charges which are now considered misdemeanors, or even perfectly legal in some states.
Despite states beginning to legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational use, thousands remain imprisoned. Some of whom are serving life sentences, and have been denied clemency despite the legal system no longer recognizing their actions as a criminal offense.
The War on Drugs
America’s War on Drugs has destroyed lives, pulled families apart, devastated communities and specifically, it’s disproportionately targeted BIPOC communities.
According to the ACLU, in the last decade, Black people were 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts. In places like Iowa, Washington D.C., Illinois and Minnesota, Black people were almost 8 times more likely to be arrested for possession. To paint an even clearer picture, the ACLU conducted a study based on 2010 arrests that showed for every 100,000 arrests made for nonviolent cannabis crimes, only 192 of those convicted were white.
Let’s fast forward to some more recent statistics:
- In 2018 alone, 663,367 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation.
- Of those 663,367 individuals, 608,775 were arrested for possession only.
- Roughly 84% of those federally sentenced for cannabis-related offenses in 2018 were people of color, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Only 11% were white.
- The average sentence for cannabis distribution in 2018 was 29 months.
Also, The Equity Organization pointed out that over the past five decades, our country has arrested 22 million Americans for low-level, nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. Despite having almost identical patterns of cannabis usage, black and brown Americans are up to 50 times more likely than their white peers to be incarcerated for possession.
Something as small as a cannabis-related misdemeanor can create barriers for an individual to access employment, education and housing for the rest of their lives, feeding into disproportionate economic, social and legal disenfranchisement of communities of color.
Take Ferrell Scott for instance, who is serving a life sentence in a federal penitentiary facility for selling marijuana. Examining Ferrell Scott’s case means taking one glimpse into the systematic disenfranchisement of Black and Brown men by the criminal justice system.
Before we dive into the specifics of this case, let’s take one moment to acknowledge that this man is spending his life in jail, permanently dismembered from his parents, children, grandchildren and community, for doing exactly what brands, corporations, venture capitalists and dispensaries are doing today, just without the millennial branding and strong social media following.
Ferrell Scott was arrested in 2008, and found guilty of possession and intent to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana. Scott was the owner of a rig truck that he used to haul freight in order to earn a living and support his family. When moving freight was not enough to keep him and his family afloat, he began hauling and selling marijuana.
Scott was arrested in Texas, a state whose legislature passed a bill in 2019 authorizing the production, manufacture, and retail sale of industrial hemp products. Back in 2016, Scott applied for clemency, and the prosecutor on his case wrote a letter on his behalf stating that he believed the life sentence was unjust. His request was denied, leaving him to continue serving a life sentence for selling a substance which others can now dispense legally and earn millions while doing so.
Scott, and thousands of others, remain incarcerated, some for the remainder of their lives, while witnessing businessmen like Kevin Murphy, CEO of one of the nation’s most lucrative marijuana companies, profit millions. In the first quarter of 2019, Acreage Holdings, reported revenue of $12.9 million.
Doing Our Part
Rosebud is a small team, made up of freelancers devoted to its mission and community. Our team remains committed to doing our part by acknowledging the privilege we are allotted to market and sell this product, in addition to educating our readers, and community at large, on the legal and social disenfranchisement of those incarcerated for doing the same.
Part of this work includes hiring and partnering with Black creatives, using our platform to amplify their work, and sharing the wealth of opportunity in this industry wherever possible. The other part of this work includes walking the talk, and allocating a percentage of our profit to social justice organizations doing the work to create a more representative, just and equitable industry.
As Natalie Papillion, Founder and Executive Director of The Equity Organization, aptly put it: there’s something so unconscionably unjust about the government declaring marijuana sales essential during this crisis, while an estimated 40,000—overwhelmingly Black and brown—Americans remain imprisoned on cannabis charges.
Earlier this month, we launched a give back campaign where 10% of all sales were donated to The Equity Organization, a criminal justice organization working to reform our country’s unjust, discriminatory and unscientific drug policies. We’re doubling down on our commitment, and extending our give back throughout the remainder of this month—from now until June 30th, for any purchase made, 10% will be donated to this incredible organization.
The work doesn’t end here—every month moving forward, we’ll be using our platform to feature Black and POC owned businesses in the wellness and cannabis industries, along with resources for education and action so members of our community can continue to support social justice. Earlier this month, we shared CannaClusive x Almost Consulting’s Inclusive Base with all 100+ US based retailers requesting they make more shelf space for Black owned cannabusinesses. This work is ongoing and non-exhaustive, and we as a brand are committed to it.
Additionally, we’re currently seeking Black and POC photographers and writers to partner with. We’ve made it easy to apply with a formal application process that collects portfolio and contact information for those interested in working with us. If this is something you are interested in, please apply here.
As a small and nimble freelance team, we partner with creatives across the country for a handful of projects and brand initiatives throughout the year. The Rosebud community, and the cannabis industry at large, is made possible by individuals across a spectrum of different backgrounds and identities—as a brand, we feel it’s important that the creatives we work with mirror that level of diversity. We don’t want to just hire Black and POC creatives, our goal is to foster a more inclusive and representative community—in doing so, we hope to contribute to a domino effect in our industry, one that amplifies voices and distributes the wealth of opportunity equally.
These steps we’re taking as a brand are only the beginning, and we’re excited to play our part in the years ahead towards creating a more equitable industry for all.
Kat Frey is a Brooklyn based writer, who originally hails from The Wing. Kat has historically worked with women-lead brands, and her writing spans from culture and cannabis, to overall health and wellness. When she’s not busy writing for Rosebud CBD, she spends her time thumbing through The Cut, Man Repeller, and T Magazine, or listening to Las Culturistas. Her favorite form of self care is adding our 350mg tincture to homemade face and hair masks!