By: Alcinia Whiters – CEIC Core Member This country became the superpower it is because of its origins as a plantation economy. Plantation economies are based on mass agricultural production and rely on the export of a cash crop as a source of income – think cotton, sugar cane and tobacco plantations. These plantations […]
By: Alcinia Whiters – CEIC Core Member
This country became the superpower it is because of its origins as a plantation economy. Plantation economies are based on mass agricultural production and rely on the export of a cash crop as a source of income – think cotton, sugar cane and tobacco plantations. These plantations reaped huge profit margins on the backs of enslaved people who provided free labor. Even after slavery was abolished Southern planters continued to exploit Black labor which, combined with Black codes and Jim Crow laws compounded poverty in the Black community. According to historians Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, “American slavery is necessarily imprinted on the DNA of American capitalism.”
Now also think cannabis.
Cannabis is the latest cash crop to exploit Black people and it didn’t just begin with the legalization of marijuana by individual states. The war on drugs including low level offenses for marijuana possession fueled the prison-industrial complex. Local jurisdictions across the country and the for-profit prisons they subsidized, used the criminality of marijuana to pillage Black and Brown communities to increase revenue.
CEIC’s goal is to see cannabis fashion a new economy and do away with what NYT reporter Matthew Desmond calls, “America’s low-road approach to capitalism.” The cannabis industry is in the unique position to steer the American economy into one that is more equitable and inclusive. Through freedom, equity and opportunity (CEIC’s core values) we can steer America on the high-road approach to capitalism. It is also the pathway to repair the harm done to Black and Brown communities through the war on drugs. Perhaps our approach to paying reparations to Black people has been all wrong. Instead of asking the government for a hand out or a one-time stipend, we could build reparations into the fabric of emerging industries.
We can have cannabis countries pay into a fund that supports programs for mental health, rehabilitation, job skills, education and even legal defense for people in communities of color. We could establish a venture capital fund specifically for investing in Black and Brown cannabis business owners. Imagine if at the end of prohibition there was a fund established or a percentage of tax revenue earmarked, to support programs providing opportunities and equitable market share of the alcohol industry. In 2019, tax revenue from alcoholic beverages amounted to more than $10 billion. If just 1% of that tax revenue was reinvested into communities of color that would provide $100 million towards creating freedom, equity and opportunity.
Last year, Nevada collected nearly $10 million in taxes from cannabis sales and if we had 1% of that reinvested into our communities of color we could establish a fund that had the potential to make right the racial injustices related to drug convictions and provide economic opportunities Black and Brown people in cannabis.
Nothing I described is outlandish. All it would take is for the industry, including business owners, government oversight boards and the will of the people to be intentional about inclusion in the cannabis industry and the will to lead the country (and other industries) by example.