Happy Black History Month
Happy Black History Month Everyone! So, one may wonder what Black History has to do with Cannabis and what, if any, are the commonalities between Black History, Cannabis, and Cannabis history. The answer lies in a long, storied, nuanced, and complicated history that the black community the world over has shared with the plant. One of the major commonalities stem from the unfortunate fact that both the black community and Cannabis have long suffered from unjust mischaracterizations of the gross proportions, often in tandem, and more nefariously, by design.
Despite all positive truths that we now commonly accept about cannabis; the synergy between the plant and the black community, no matter how intrinsically tied to one another, has historically only been highlighted in a negative manner, and used to create a farcical overall picture.… for years we have been plied with fabrications, mischaracterizations, and misconceptions about Cannabis and the Black community being purposefully broadcasted to the masses, successfully leading to a very negative racialized view and Cannabis's prohibition. This is why it is extra important that Black People be represented in the legal market. A
disproportionate amount of the black community was ravaged as a result of the plants illegality, so representation is a must! But lets take a look back, and explore how we got to this point.
A little History:
The cannabis plant was first harvested in central asia (Possible as early as 500 BCE), before it making its way down to Southeast Asia in India and the Arab countries. This is why many of the terms used for cannabis have Sanskit origin (e.g. ganja). The vast trading networks in the area then introduced cannabis to the African Diaspora in the 13th century. Then, in the 1800s, the British brought 1.5 million indentured Indian servants with them who fortunate for us brought the best thing in the world with them.
When slavery was abolished in Jamaica and Barbados in 1834, Indian workers settled in Jamaica, and the cannabis they brought exploded in popularity. 100 + years later, Bob Marley and other Jamaican musicians would help transform cannabis into a global phenomenon. Cannabis also arrived in the United States through two different groups: Mexican citizens fleeing the conflict caused by the Mexican Revolution and sailors and immigrants traveling from the Carribeans to New Orleans.
Cannabis, Pop-Culture, and Prohibition
We now accept that Cannabis is known to boost creativity, and is utilized the world over for that purpose by all different sorts of people, but is very popular amongst musicians. This was especially true for Jazz. Touring New Orleans jazz acts would often bring cannabis when they traveled to places like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and New York further popularizing cannabis use.
Enter Harry Anslinger, the man responsible for cannabis prohibition, who took the reigns of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930 and used a racialized perspective to make cannabis illegal. Anslinger tied cannabis to jazz, declaring that cannabis inspired Black people to create “Satanic music,” which they used to seduced white women and promote interracial relationships. Sounds ridiculous right? Well it was, but despite this, Anslinger’s efforts were successful and Cannabis was outlawed in 1937.
Cannabis, The War on Drugs, and the Prison Industrial Complex
Things escalated when President Nixon began the War on Drugs in the early 1970s. This meant there was a boom in cannabis related arrests, which in turn led to the building and bolstering of the prison industrial complex in its current iteration, which is a giant money making machine, essentially using what is tantamount to slave labor to garner its massive profits. Whats more is these prisons are forced to keep it going by keeping the prisons full for the sake of profit, as opposed to being an actual institution of correction and rehabilitation, but that's another story. Furthermore is that the aforementioned leads to a phenomenon where when inmates are released they not only are not rehabilitated, but lose rights that many of us enjoy like voting, and are followed by their criminal record everywhere. This makes it hard to get employed, or be eligible for other assistance. Hundreds of thousands of people fall into this category, where being arrested and convicted of a cannabis-related crime essentially pushes them to the fringe of society.
Where are we now:
Despite the War on Drugs, and much to Anslinger's chagrin, cannabis has a permanent hold in pop culture. This is mainly due to the influence of Black musical art forms like jazz, reggae, and hip-hop keeping it there. Think Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill and countless others responsible for Cannabis being a mainstay in our pop culture, and helping ease the rest of society's perception of Cannabis.
Here at AlphaBud we want to shine a special light on the Black Community as it pertains to Cannabis. Cannabis being legal is awesome! The fact that while illegal, there was a disproportionate amount of the Black community negatively effected due to its illegality and enforcement, is far from awesome, and more so awful.
If you are black in Toronto, you represent less that 9% of the population, yet you were 4.3 times more likely to be charged with a Cannabis related charges than other groups despite there being parity in terms of cannabis consumption. This was the unfortunate introduction of many to the "system." A system that led many down a path exceedingly hard to turn back from, that many would argue is almost impossible to escape, and it happened in city after city. Not enough is being done to correct this, as the current Pardon system has serious limitations, and new restrictions on the legality of cannabis still negatively effect the black community. We advocate for the complete, and total expungement of cannabis related charges, as well as for far greater inclusion than the current 1% in executive spaces in the legal cannabis market
Join us this month in not only celebrating black history, but also in celebrating the intrinsic relationship between black history, the black community, cannabis and cannabis history