Kaisha-Dyan McMillan, MG Retailer.
Memorial Day 2020 will be remembered as a watershed moment in history. Throughout the holiday weekend, civil unrest exploded in communities across America and around the world to protest the senseless killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Arbery, and other unarmed Black people whose lives were cut short by law enforcement officers and vigilante racists. A new civil rights movement was born that weekend, but the mood and behaviors unfolded differently from the way they did in the 1950s and ’60s. Hashtags and social media posts were called out for being more platitudes than genuine action, and simply denouncing social injustice no longer was enough. Anyone committed to the cause also needed to back up their words with actions. As people of all backgrounds began to reckon with the reality of systemic racism in the United States, even White allies of the Black Lives Matter movement had to face a difficult truth: They have benefitted from a divisive and inequitable system.
The cannabis industry was not spared scrutiny.
I sit in a room with other CEOs, and I’m generally the only Black face. This isn’t happenstance, and it’s not like we’re just grossly underqualified as a people
– Jeff Gray, Co-Founder and CEO, SC Labs
Legal cannabis may be a multibillion-dollar industry now, but underlying its prohibitionist history is a well-documented racist agenda that helped fuel the disproportionate targeting, arrest, and incarceration of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Even today, as the industry grapples with social equity, Black people are nearly four times more likely than White people to be arrested for cannabis possession, according to the report “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform” (ACLU, 2020). At the same time, White people make up the majority of cannabis business owners in legal markets.
A 2017 study undertaken by an industry publication found only 4.3 percent of…