The Cannabis Industry and the Black Lives Matter Uprising

Since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis police force, the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement—itself galvanized six years ago by the slaying of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MO—has come to animate what can now only be called a national uprising. No part of the country has been untouched. Large solidarity demonstrations have also been held overseas.

As in any such situation, unpredictable forces have been unleashed—as witnessed by the broken glass and looted storefronts in cities coast to coast. 

Dispensaries Looted

Cannabis dispensaries across California have been hit by looters. The East Bay Express reports that “most of the dispensaries in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland seem to have been hit.” Two outlets of the upscale national chain MedMen were among several dispensaries struck in Los Angeles.

The Cannabis Now retail store in Los Angeles was also among those hit. Cannabis Now founder and CEO Eugenio Garcia said in a statement that the looters struck last weekend—hours after a large and peaceful protest was held at the same intersection as the shop, where La Cienega Blvd. meets 3rd St., near West Hollywood. “I was threatened and assaulted and our building was ransacked for hours,” Garcia relates. “Almost everything was stolen and destroyed. As an entrepreneur this is heartbreaking.”

PHOTO Cannabis Now

Adding to the sting, the ransacking came days after the shop had re-opened after having been closed since early March due to COVID-19. “It was wonderful to have so many neighbors stop by and tell us how happy they were to see us open,” Garcia says. “Our store is currently closed again, but we will do our best to rebuild and offer a safe place for the community to come together.”

Oakland’s flagship cannabis dispensary, Harborside, which made headlines when it went public last year, has been “robbed repeatedly” over the past weeks of unrest, according to the company’s chairman emeritus, Steve DeAngelo. “We were one of dozens of California cannabis dispensaries that have been targeted,” DeAngelo tells Cannabis Now. He says the break-ins were the work not of protesters but “professional thieves who saw an opportunity.”  

Eugenio Garcia, in his statement on the sacking of the Cannabis Now store, had this message for the protesters:

“We stand with you. For a decade it has been our mission at Cannabis Now to help build an all-inclusive community surrounding the cannabis plant. Black and Latino communities are specifically targeted and incarcerated due to cannabis prohibition. Racial injustice has prevailed for far longer…

We encourage you to peacefully protest, to vote and to let your voice be heard. While you are doing that, please lift up and support the small businesses in your community who have been affected.”

War on Drugs Helped Bring Us to This Point  

What makes for the special situation of cannabis businesses at this historical juncture is that the War on Drugs—including cannabis prohibition—has been a major ticket-holder in the matrix of oppression faced by Black America. 

Harborside’s Steve DeAngelo, with personal roots as an activist long before he became an entrepreneur, especially emphasizes the social responsibilities of the cannabis community.

“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that cannabis movement needs to make racial justice an integral part of all that we do,” DeAngelo says. “We have a debt of history we need to honor and need to pay. This industry would not exist without the efforts of generations of African Americans—who were the first people to bring cannabis to North America. It’s passage from Black jazz musicians to white fans was one of the vectors to rest of America. Cannabis is a gift of the African American community to the rest of the country.” 

This history has played out in some agonizingly paradoxical ways. DeAngelo cites the case of Michael Thompson, a 68-year-old African American man who has been serving a 60-year term for selling cannabis in Michigan since 1996—in a state where it is now legal. A campaign for his release has recently been launched, in light of the danger COVID-19 poses to prisoners. Says DeAngelo: “There are 40,000 people in this country in same category of doing time for something no longer illegal in many states.” 

DeAngelo also invokes the case of Corvain Cooper, a Black man from Los Angeles who is serving a life term under the federal “three strikes” law—convicted in 2013 in a supposed conspiracy to ship cannabis out of state. His family appealed his life term, arguing that changes to California law meant that his prior convictions (all for nonviolent offenses) were no longer felonies. But the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the case. A clemency campaign for him has now been launched. He was recently transfered to a prison in Louisiana, so his family can no longer afford to visit him. In a particularly telling irony, the site of the Louisiana clothes boutique he had opened shortly before his arrest is today a cannabis dispensary.

“Can you imagine how they feel?” DeAngelo asks. “An extraordinarily rich industry is being built, and not only can you not participate but you’re still locked up. And with COVID in the prisons, you’re potentially facing a death sentence.”  

Last year, DeAngelo launched the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit group working for, in his words, “the release of every cannabis prisoner on the planet, and helping provide the resources for them to rebuild their lives.” First, this means petitioning for “compassionate release,” DeAngelo says. “The government has the power at the stroke of a pen to grant clemency, but it’s a political risk. We’re currently having conversations with governors’ offices in legal states.” These clemency petitions are being undertaken in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Meanwhile, DeAngelo says the Last Prisoner Project “is making funds available to pay for phone calls and medical care which are prohibitively expansive for many prisoners. We’re also aiding prisoners on release to find employment—especially in the legal cannabis industry.” 

“The cannabis industry has a responsibility to strive for racial justice, both in operational and advocacy points of view,” DeAngelo sums up. “Both the COVID and policing crises make clear how urgent this is. I don’t think it’s any more urgent now than it was a week ago, but that urgency is becoming clearer now.” 

I don’t think it’s any more urgent now than it was a week ago, but that urgency is becoming clearer now.” 

– Steve DeAngelo

Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said this in a June 1 statement in response to Trump mobilizing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to target protesters: “For far too long, the drug war has been used as a tactic to target, harass, assault, criminalize, and incarcerate communities of color, resulting in a social, economic, and cultural stranglehold around our necks… People of color have a right to be angry and a right to be heard. We cannot meet pleas for liberation with more state-sponsored violence. Until we defund agencies like the DEA and CBP, and remove federal incentives for local police departments, Black and Brown people will forever be gasping for air.” 

The Soul of the Cannabis Community

The War on Drugs has been identified, most prominently by writer Michelle Alexander, as a “new Jim Crow” that is again incarcerating, disenfranchising—and killing—Black people in the United States. It can be argued that, whatever new propaganda guise is now employed, the actual social function of the War on Drugs has been the same as that of legal segregation and Klan terror of an earlier era. And as indicated by the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man killed while jogging near his Georgia home in February, the outright vigilante terror of the Klan era also lives on.  

We now see the narco-stigma being employed against George Floyd, with the assertion that he had been using meth—as if that makes any difference to the moral equation whatsoever. Often in the past, cannabis has been the substance at issue in the posthumous stigmatization of victims of police terror.

And many of the police killings of unarmed Black youth that we’ve seen in recent years across the country have been linked, one way or another, to cannabis. Most notorious was the case of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, who was shot dead in his own home in the Bronx in 2012. He was killed by an NYPD officer who had followed him into the apartment after supposedly witnessing him engaged in a street deal. He was shot while attempting to flush his stash of cannabis down the toilet. The officer who killed him never faced charges

As recently as this March, an egregious incident of police abuse in Brooklyn went viral on the internet and re-ignited public anger over racist marijuana enforcement in New York City.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we must recognize peaceful protesters and opportunistic theives as opposites ends of a spectrum—some of the looting (at least) has presumably been carried out by the simply angry and desperate. We should also keep in mind that from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, there have been signs that some of the violence has been provocation by far-right white nationalists bent on provoking a civil war.

PHOTO Harrison Haines

It’s a paradoxical testament to the gains of cannabis “normalization” that dispensaries are seen as just another capitalist enterprise—and therefore fair game for social rage, when it erupts. Where cannabis enterprises are seen as complicit with gentrification, the rage may even be targeted at such businesses. And this rage may be compounded by the bitter irony of white entrepreneurs disproportionately getting rich off legal cannabis, while Black users remain disproportionately criminalized. Official policies of “cannabis equity” in California (at least) represent an effort to address this contradiction—but the contradiction still persists.

The soul of the country’s cannabis community is being tested by this crisis. Cannabis massively reached white America—the critical step of its “normalization” in a white-dominated society—as a part of the cultural ferment of the 1960s, which also included the anti-war and civil rights movements. It is painfully clear that it is still necessary to fight for the things the civil rights movement fought for two generations ago. The degree to which the cannabis community will be a part of this fight will reveal the degree to which the values of that era have truly been nurtured—or whether the weed is today just another capitalist commodity in a system that consumes and exploits Black lives.

TELL US, how do you feel about the cannabis industry’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement?

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8 Questions for a budtender working during COVID-19

What was life like for a budtender working during COVID-19? Cannabis businesses were deemed essential during the pandemic and rightly so. Still, because of the situation, a number of places have had to close their doors. Since their opening day in 1996, the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club found a way to adapt operations and continue […]

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Super simple and creative stoner hacks to try at home

In the cannabis community, we’re all pretty crafty don’t you think? From coming up with revolutionary snack combos when you’ve got the munchies to making apple bongs…we’ve all done those creative ‘stoner-starter-pack’ things. Well, it’s time to get in touch with that fun side of you again. Check out this article and level up with […]

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ICBC Goes Virtual with Their First Ever Remote Conference

International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC), a premier cannabis networking event known for its worldwide focus on the industry, is hosting their first-ever online event, the Virtual Global Symposium, on Wednesday, June 9. 

With a worldwide network already in place, ICBC’s ability to reach out to the world and attract attendees, exhibitors and speakers from around the globe proved to be relatively easy compared to other conferences, according to Alex Rogers, the event’s CEO and executive producer. 

“Our international audience is congruent to doing a virtual event,” Rogers said. “It’s a great way to connect with the global cannabis community and is ideal for someone looking to expand their business on a national or international level,” he said, adding that attendees from 70 different countries were already signed up for the event.

The streamlined and power-packed event takes place via a mobile app from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. PST and features an all-star lineup of speakers including Rick Steves, cannabis activist and renowned international travel expert; Peter Homberg, partner at leading international law firm, Denton’s, and head of the European Cannabis Sector Group; and Lorenza Romanese, managing director at the European Industrial Hemp Association. 

Curated out of a need for more interaction between professionals during the isolating effects of COVID-19, the Global Symposium is a platform that business owners can use to lean on each other for support and learn how to navigate the complexities of cannabis and the coronavirus. 

The schedule includes speakers who will offer insight on: the current market, how the pandemic is affecting the industry, and what businesses can do to thrive and survive during COVID-19 and beyond. 

“I’m excited to learn the best way to move forward and maximize time and resources,” Rogers said. 

A Virtual Cannabis Conference

You might be wondering, “What does a virtual expo even look like?” 

Taking place on Whova, a mobile app designed specifically for networking events, exhibitors can do a variety of things, from uploading files and providing various links and resources in their portals, to hosting chat rooms and networking one-on-one with their virtual visitors. 

“A lot of networking gets done on the app,” Rogers commented, explaining that the app opens up a few days before the event and remains open for weeks after, allowing attendees plenty of time to network and make deals. 

The event will be moderated by comedian and master of ceremonies, Ngaio Bealum and cannabis journalist David Downs. Instead of just scheduling speaker after speaker, there will be “breaks” with cannabis superstars such as Tommy Chong, Doug Benson and DJ Muggs. 

“We want to make it fun to keep attendees engaged and bring some levity to an otherwise cerebral program,” Rogers said. 

To date, Rogers has produced around 20 events for ICBC around the world. For the inaugural virtual event, he says he’s looking forward to seeing how robust the remote networking can be. 

Two key advantages that come with the online gathering include saving time and resources by not having to travel, as well as the ability to stay online with new connections as long as you want. 

ICBC goes virtual with online symposium

“You never have to hand out a business card,” Rogers says. “This is about keeping our people engaged, making deals, partnering and networking before they can meet face-to-face.” 

Early Bird Ticket prices are available for $50 until June 8 at midnight. Prices increase to $99 on June 9, the day of the event. Register now at https://internationalcbc.com/icbc-buy-tickets/

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5 live-streamed DJ sets that took over the internet during COVID-19

DJ’s across the world are live streaming to treat their fans to an exclusive set broadcasting straight from their rooftop to your screens.  We rounded up a list of 5 live-streamed DJ sets that took over the internet during COVID-19. European DJ- Martin Garrix The European DJ has blessed us with amazing sets that can […]

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How to support your local community during COVID-19

There are lots of ways you can support your local community during COVID-19… all from inside your home! Never underestimate the power of a good deed and the positive ripple effect that it can have. Someone once said that if you want to get out of your head, go help someone and we all need […]

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Farmers Armour Launches Mask Donation Program to Fight Coronavirus

Farmers Armour, an apparel company focused on creating technical, protective gear for cannabis farmers, launched a one-for-one mask donation program in the beginning of April to support frontline workers of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

With manufacturing systems already in place, ramping up production of the masks was relatively simple for Farmers Armour. Founded by cannabis farmer Jeremy Glum in the fall of 2018, the small company has been making farming masks for just over a year now. 

Luckily, no design modifications were needed – the highly efficient and protective farming masks already feature two breathing valves, and they come with a replaceable N99 filter. The filter’s lifespan is approximately 40 hours. 

However, as the demand for masks rapidly grew with the nationwide shut down, Glum and his partner Kaz Kosciolek didn’t feel right about capitalizing off the increased sales. 

“Since there was a mass shortage of masks, we felt a moral obligation to contribute,” said Kosciolek, who handles the marketing and digital aspects of the company. 

By the Farmer for the Farmer

Kosciolek and Glum have spent countless hours in the field. They share a love of cannabis, and are passionate about helping their fellow farmers with no-bullsh*t apparel that gets the job done. One might describe Farmers Armour as a “by the farmer, for the farmer” kind of company where they treat their customers like friends, offering full transparency and a commitment to delivering quality products. 

“When so much focus has been on legalization and end product, we wanted to make sure the people actually growing the product weren’t forgotten,” Kosciolek said.

Glum’s idea for Farmers Armour was born out of a desire to work in comfort – not just for himself but for all of his fellow farmers exposed to rugged climate conditions and allergens on the job. 

Farmers Armour’s two main products are their protective farming sleeves and dust particle masks. The sleeves keep resin production off and offer protection from leaf rash and any other skin irritation associated with gardening. Glum developed the masks with trimmers in mind, as a lot of people have allergies and can become extremely irritated while working, he explained. 

Knights in Shining Armour

Utilizing the masks to combat coronavirus is not something they could have predicted, but Glum and Kosciolek feel fortunate that they are able to use Farmers Armour as an outlet to expand their reach and help people outside of the cannabis industry. 

“Doing the one-for-one donation fits into our company value of being as helpful as we can,” Kosciolek said. 

As of May 22, the Santa Cruz-based company has donated approximately 1,800 masks with another shipment of 1,500 underway. Masks are being offered to many of Santa Cruz’s first responders, like the local fire departments, health wards, and the sheriff’s office. Essential retailers such as banks, grocery stores, and the post office are also on Glum’s donation list.

Glum is personally delivering the masks to those in need. When talking to him about the donation program, it’s clear that contributing to his community means a lot to him. 

“It’s giving people an opportunity to donate and help out, and I think that’s the beauty of any donation,” said Glum. “Let’s give everyone a chance to help everyone. It’s a cool option for us.”

Glum’s desire to help others is also reflected in the company’s commitment to sustainability. Farmers Armour is continually examining ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint. Recently, this meant making products that are reusable and moving away from plastic packaging – something consumers will notice when receiving their masks. 

The mask donation program will continue for as long as masks are still needed by front line workers. 

Those who don’t need masks but still want to participate in the donation program can do so at https://farmersarmour.com/shop.

Alongside the donation program, the Farmers Armour team is working to release new farming-related gear in the coming months. Visit their website for product updates and more information on their one-for-one program.   

TELL US, are you helping others during the COVID-19 crisis?

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5 Cannabis-Friendly Ways to Stay in Shape During Coronavirus

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter our world’s state of normalcy, it’s important to keep in the best physical condition as possible. Even though it is a very stressful time, focusing on health and fitness can be a way to relieve that tension, and if cannabis is involved, it can be all the more enjoyable.

We’re laying out a few ways that you can stay in shape while consuming our favorite plant. This list includes how to incorporate cannabis into your work-out routines, make healthier choices when satiating the munchies and there’s even a simple recipe you can easily try at home. Stay sane, stay safe and stay in shape. 

PHOTO Pixabay

1. READ: All Strains for Awesome Gains

Although many people use cannabis to relax and unwind after a busy day, you can also use it to enhance your workouts and decrease muscle soreness afterwards if it’s consumed in mindful moderation. It can fit into different types of workouts from cardio to weight training to yoga depending on your needs and help put you in the zone to do your best.

PHOTO Bruce Wolf

2. READ: Recipe: Full Spectrum Fruit Smoothie

This recipe is a sweet, refreshing spin on cannabis medicine that includes the healing properties of hemp. The combination of hemp and cannabis oil in this smoothie offers the benefits and delights of both sides of our favorite flower. Double your pleasure, double your pain relief and — most importantly — double your fun!

PHOTO Gracie Malley

3. READ: Jessamyn Stanley’s Do’s and Don’ts for 420-Friendly Yoga

Click to learn what the renowned yoga teacher and body positivity advocate recommends you consider before sparking up on the mat.

PHOTO Veganbaking.net

4. READ: A Health Nut’s Guide to Cannabis — Munchies Edition

There are many tried-and-true methods for keeping one’s body in check without ditching the weed. Here are a few starter tips that may keep you in decent enough shape for the summer pool season.

Hemp Foods Cannabis Now Magazine
PHOTO Vote Hemp

5. READ: 5 Healthy Hemp Foods

Hemp is an incredibly resilient and versatile plant. It’s been used to create textiles, building materials, bio-plastics and auto parts – and loads of tasty food offerings. Rich in protein, omega-fatty acids and fiber, hemp is an excellent plant-based protein for vegetarians, vegans, people with food sensitivities and anyone who enjoys good nutritious food.

TELL US, have you been using cannabis to stay in shape during the pandemic?

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5 Articles to Send Your Canna-Curious Mom This Mother’s Day

This Mother’s Day is an unusual one because most children will be forced celebrate their moms from afar due to COVID-19. Since you’ve likely been keeping in touch a bit more than usual, maybe it’s time to dive into normally uncharted territory. Why not spice up that phone or video chat conversation by bringing up cannabis?

We’ve curated these articles to be suited to a mother’s interests: A gift guide of mom-approved products, tips for a mother who may be new to cannabis but wants to know more, an interview with noted canna-chef and mother Nonna Marijuana, information about treating pets with cannabis and an overview of the topical application of medical marijuana. And if your mom isn’t new to the plant consider getting her something on this list or have some flowers delivered…you know the kind we mean.

PHOTO Pexels

READ: Ganja for Mama – The Best Cannagifts for Mother’s Day

Once upon a time, it used to just be the cool parents who smoked cannabis. Now, parents of all stripes and lifestyles are reviving their college days habits or just trying out cannabis for the first time thanks to the blossoming acceptance around the plant’s healing powers. Some smoke, some vape, some prefer edibles, others stick to topicals or tinctures and others dabble in a little bit of everything. Whatever your mom favors, you can find something here that will make her smile on her special day.

PHOTO Gracie Malley

READ: 5 Basic Tips for New Cannabis Users

It’s important to have some sort of clue about what direction to go in when heading into unfamiliar territory, whether it’s first-timers or folks who haven’t had the opportunity to indulge in their favorite plant for quite awhile. Whatever the circumstance, it’s clear that there are a load of new and returning users who aren’t educated about some basic ways to keep themselves and others from having overwhelming and unpleasant experiences. 

Nonna Marijuana
PHOTO Yoshi Taima

READ: Mama Mia: Cannabis Now Talks with Nonna Marijuana

Aurora Leveroni is the high priestess of pot cuisine. The 92-year-old Italian grandmother, better known as “Nonna Marijuana,” charmed the cannabis community with her appearance in the debut episode of Munchies’ “Bong Appetit” series when she showed how she prepared classic Italian dishes, but replaced traditional fats with marijuana-infused butter and oil.

A puppy and kitty nuzzle each other as they experience a pain free life thanks to CBD's.
PHOTO Pixabay

READ: Cannabis Pet Meds: The Next Frontier in Veterinary Medicine

For many mothers, pets are extremely important and their health and safety is crucial. Another way to introduce your mom to cannabis is through pet medicine. This article conveys firsthand experiences of owners treating their pets with cannabis medicine for the first time.

topicals for seniors
ILLUSTRATION CSA-Printstock

READ: Topicals: The Real Gateway Drug for Senior Citizens

More and more seniors are coming to cannabis for the first time via topicals, perhaps most often to treat arthritis. Since those who might be averse to getting high from smoking or eating cannabis are often not intimidated by using a non-psychoactive cannabis balm, topicals offer a way to discover the healing properties of cannabis while eliminating the fear of getting too buzzed.

TELL US, do you talk to your mom about cannabis?

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COVID-19: 7 Simple Home Workouts to Try During Quarantine

Since gyms have closed due to COVID-19, finding the gear to workout has gotten harder; dumbbells have become the new toilet paper as more people are investing in fitness equipment. However, you don’t need to have a home gym to keep yourself in shape; all you need is a little bit of space and youtube. […]

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