Black History Month is a time to reflect on the various contributions Black Americans have made throughout history. The Marijuana Policy Project proudly acknowledges the endless achievements of Black Americans as we continue our mission of advancing policies to reform our country’s views of cannabis and ending cannabis prohibition.
Cannabis criminalization dates to the1930s when Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, lobbied to make cannabis public enemy number one. He launched a campaign rooted in racism and xenophobia by championing passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed the possession and sale of cannabis. Anslinger claimed that cannabis use could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. He argued that young people would become slaves to the drug, continuing addiction until they deteriorated mentally, became insane, and turned to violent crime, including murder. He suggested that Black people and Latinos were the primary users of cannabis and that jazz musicians were creating “Satanic” music due to its influence. This obsession led to the witch hunt against legendary singer and civil rights activist Billie Holiday who was mistreated by law enforcement until her death.
In 1944, the New York Academy of Medicine issued the LaGuardia Report, which completely debunked Anslinger’s assertions about the use of cannabis. The LaGuardia Report found cannabis use did not induce violence, insanity, or sex crimes, nor did it lead to heroin or cocaine addiction. Additionally, the report noted that the smoking of cannabis was not widespread among school children.
Still, over 75 years later, cannabis remains the reason for 43 percent of all drug arrests nationwide, and year after year there are more people arrested for cannabis offenses than for all violent crimes combined. According to a 2020 ACLU report, racial disparities in cannabis arrests have worsened in 31 states, and cannabis is still a primary pretext for police contact with Black Americans.
MPP remains dedicated to ending the racist policies of prohibition and pushing forward with cannabis decriminalization and equitable legalization. In honor of Black History Month, we encourage everyone to support Black-owned cannabis businesses across the country and help us to continue the press for total, federal legalization of cannabis. Let's honor Black History Month by learning from the past and investing in a fairer, more equitable future for Black Americans.
A spotlight on Black advocates of the cannabis movement
As the former COO of C.E. Hutton, Khadijah decided to expose the issues with cannabis that communities of color often face, while championing Black-owned businesses. Upon entering the cannabis space, Khadijah learned that most companies had not implemented diversity, equity, and inclusion plans — or they had implemented plans but somehow still managed to exclude Black Americans. In an effort to right these previous wrongs, Adams co-authored, “The Minority Report,” an annual marketing analysis on minority-owned businesses in the cannabis and hemp industries and recognition of the pioneers who run them. Khadijah also hosts NCIA's Cannabis Minority Report podcast.
Delegate Darryl Barnes
Del. Darryl Barnes represents Prince George’s County in the Maryland House of Delegates and is the chair of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus. In this role, Del. Barnes has worked towards improving the state’s medical cannabis industry by promoting fairness and equity. As a small business owner who founded a nonprofit embodying his view that success can only come if you help others along the way, Del. Barnes is committed to working on issues related to education, economic development, human rights, reentry, and criminal justice reform.
Courtney is the director of public affairs and government relations for Marijuana Matters. In this capacity, she leads the community and government outreach efforts to advance equitable cannabis policies and regulations that eliminate barriers to economic opportunities in regulated cannabis markets for communities of color.
Prior to joining Marijuana Matters, Courtney served as legislative assistant to Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-CO). In this role, she advised the senator on policies related to agriculture and veterans’ affairs. Earlier in her career, she worked on several successful campaigns, including Mayors Kasim Reed of Atlanta and Michael Hancock of Denver.
Courtney received a B.A. in political science from Clark Atlanta University. She is originally from San Diego, CA, but she is now a proud D.C. Ward 8 resident. In her free time, she and her husband enjoy culinary country-hopping.
Tauhid Chappell is the founder of Color of Cannabis Conference, Philadelphia’s first media-led cannabis conference aimed specifically at communities of color to reverse the stigma of cannabis use, acknowledge and counter the amount of misinformation on the plant, and educate local media on why covering Black and Brown issues surrounding cannabis legalization is important and necessary as a service and function of the media industry. Tauhid’s experience as a medical cannabis patient drives his passion for expanding cannabis education to current and potential patients who may benefit from cannabis' therapeutic and medical effects.
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District. She currently serves on the U.S. House Budget and Appropriations Committees and is the highest ranking Black woman in the House’s Democratic leadership. Congresswoman Lee is currently co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus whose Marijuana Justice Act legislation was included in the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that reforms discriminatory cannabis policies and passed the House last year. Congresswoman Lee chaired the Congressional Black Caucus during the 111th Congress and was co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus during the 109th and 110th Congresses.
Corvain Cooper is Brand Ambassador at 40 Tons, a Black, woman-owned premium cannabis, clothing, and accessories brand from Los Angeles, California. In 2013, Corvain received a life sentence without parole after a “third strike” for his participation in a cannabis distribution operation. Corvain fortunately received a grant of executive clemency from Donald Trump in his final days as President.
Lanese Martin is co-executive director and political director of the Hood Incubator. She guides the organization’s political strategy, including base-building, community organizing, and political advocacy work. Lanese began her professional career consulting small family businesses by systemizing their operations and developing growth strategies for them. While studying for an M.B.A. in sustainable enterprise, she began to shift her professional focus from consulting to political organizing, focusing on progressive campaigns. Her work as the field director for an Oakland-based nonprofit led to deep relationships with nonprofits and Black and Brown communities not only in Oakland but across California. Additionally, her work as the field director for Nancy Skinner’s successful 2016 California state Senate race led to strong relationships with elected leaders as well as their staff in the Bay Area. Lanese earned a B.A. in political science and a minor in business from Dominican University of California and later returned for an M.B.A.
Jesce Horton is the co-founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Additionally, Jesce founded NuProject with his wife Jeannette Ward Horton, an organization that provides grants, loans, educational resources, job-matching assistance, and entrepreneurial services to cannabis business owners and start-ups.
Losia Nyankale is the executive director of Maryland NORML and owner of #GrowithLisa. Residing in D.C.’s Ward 7, Losia has worked tirelessly to ensure her neighbors have access to information about cannabis regulations through the Cannabis Business Development Group (CBDG), an organization she co-founded. CBDG organizes educational events for patients in Ward 7 that teach about cannabis medicine and how to obtain safe, legal products. As Maryland NORML’s executive director, she recruits local leaders as a means of diversifying the organization. She also assisted in organizing the 2020 Maryland Cannabis Policy Conference.
Leo Bridgewater is a longtime New Jersey cannabis advocate and is the national director of veteran outreach for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, co-founder of Leaf Launch Holdings, and chief innovation officer for the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo. Like many veterans, his service left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and he found relief in medical cannabis.
Sirita Wright is a cannabis advocate and co-founder of EstroHaze, a media company that offers women of color a space to learn about lifestyle and career opportunities in the cannabis industry. Wright met her other co-founders, Safon Floyd and Kali Wilder, while working at Black Enterprise. The ladies decided to create EstroHaze after attending the Canopy conference and observing a lack of inclusion when it came to highlighting Black women working behind the scenes in cannabis. Wright looks at the legal cannabis industry as a way for people of color to create generational wealth and sees this as a time for communities of color to learn about the industry as well as understand how to invest in cannabis stocks and companies.
Meet the Ladies of Blounts&Moore, LLC
It all began with a girls’ trip of nine women to Kiawah Island, South Carolina in April 2019. They were there to relax, rejuvenate, and share their future goals. However, they all left with a significant interest in the world of cannabis, and after several meetings, they agreed to establish cannabis-related businesses in several states. This team of professional women with expertise in law, medicine, media, social justice, and government are focused on crashing the cannabis market, bringing Black community with them. The group includes two Blount sisters and two Moore sisters, hence the name: Blounts&Moore.
Sherri Blount, Gwen Adolph, Dale Cochran, Robyn Coles, Karen C. Phillips, Earline Richardson, Terri W. Roberts, Rita Scott, and Marva Smalls all are of the belief that cannabis is an avenue for Black Americans to build generational wealth. They have established cannabis-related businesses in Illinois, with a license pending in Virginia. Their next plan of action is to branch out and set up shop in the Carolinas.
Blounts&Moore Wellness, LLC is currently in the Carolinas advocating for the health and economic benefits of medical cannabis. They are following legislation in both states: SB 711 in North Carolina and H. 3361/S. 150 in South Carolina, compassionate medical bills that will provide patients with access to medical cannabis.
Medical use of cannabis is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, with Mississippi just approving a measure this month. It is estimated that the U.S. cannabis industry will be worth $80 billion by 2030.