Quick — what do ex-weed slingers 50 Cent, Pusha T, and The Game all have in common?
If you said, “they’re all significantly overrated as rappers,” well okay, we’ll acknowledge that and give you partial credit. But the correct answer was: “they’re all men.”
A group called Women Grow sees that as a real problem. That’s why they convened a recent panel entitled “Minority Leaders in Cannabis” to encourage women to pursue lucrative careers as drug dealers. Well, legal marijuana dealers, specifically.
The marijuana industry — and again, we’re talking about the legal marijuana industry — has been dominated by white men, much like a range of other professions including Coal Miner, U.S. President, and Winner of American Idol. But Women Grow is determined to drive change and expand opportunities — not only to women, but to men and women of color.
The panel’s organizers acknowledge that their goal is challenging. American drug policy has long preyed on people of color, using tactics like prosecuting the possession of crack and cocaine — the former a derivative of the latter — in vastly different ways, which led to a disproportionate number of black drug users going to jail.
Plus, black people’s overrepresentation in drug arrests also limits their opportunities to join in on the legal weed industry. This can occur in states like California, where a permit to sell can be denied if the “applicant or licensee has been convicted of an offense that is substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of the business or profession for which the application is made.” In other words, if a cop busted you for smoking a joint back when it was a crime, you could be denied a license to work in the industry even though the very thing you were arrested for is now perfectly legal.
And then there’s one more way the scales are tilted. With a limited number of permits available in many cities, personal connections to city officials may be a key factor in being selected to sell. The places where government/weed networking is most likely to occur — state houses and the box seats at Phish concerts — are likely to be the domain of white men. And that’s the reality that the Minority Leaders in Cannabis organizers have to crack.
On the other side of the issue, opposing nearly every proper noun in this article so far, is Attorney General Jeff “The KKK Was Okay Until I Found Out They Smoked Pot” Sessions. To date, Sessions’ drug policy seems like something that was cut from the film Reefer Madness for being “a bit over-the-top.” Basically, there’s the real chance that Sessions will try to snuff out and extinguish these advancements, to use a clunky Dad Joke that only Jeff Sessions would find funny.
Perhaps Sessions will stay out of the issue, either because he knows public opinion is squarely against him, or because he’ll be removed from office before he can get around to shutting down legal weed.
But as long as pot remains permissible in certain municipalities, groups like Women Grow want to make sure that its benefits are distributed across race and gender.
Even though realistically, a system that overwhelmingly favors white men is probably the best bet for Jeff Sessions to leave it be.