Cherron Perry-Thomas founded Black Cannabis Week to educate marginalized communities about opportunities in the industry after COVID-19 forced in-person events to go virtual. This year, the week will be hybrid with both virtual and in-person events. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

In 2020, the global legal cannabis market was estimated to be worth $20.5 billion, and by 2026, it is projected that the value will increase to $90.4 billion, according to Research and Markets. Still, the industry is one that Black and Brown communities have been excluded from, and for these communities, the cannabis plant is essentially synonymous with incarceration. 

“When you start to look at the history of the prohibition of cannabis, it was all racist,” said Cherron Perry-Thomas, director of social impact for the Diasporic Alliance of Cannabis Opportunities (DACO). “In terms of why we aren’t involved in it and why we still lag behind, we have a historical context to this plant that leads back to racism, which for many of us is a stickler for not making us want to feel like we’re welcomed or involved.” 

DACO’s second Black Cannabis Week, which was founded by Thomas, is one platform that aims to make the industry more equitable. The week, which began on Sept. 19, provides eight days of virtual, free activities centered around cannabis history, health, education, policy, and careers. It culminates in the two-day Cannabis Opportunities Conference, which will be held in person at Temple University in Philadelphia. Once people sign up for the conference, they will receive daily emails indicating which themed activities will occur that day. 

“One of the differences between this conference and the ones that we’ve had before is that we are focusing on three major aspects that are key to including more Black and Brown communities in the cannabis industry,” said Perry. “One is careers, the other one is expungements and pardons and, most importantly, policy.” 

During the conference, a returning citizen will discuss the do’s and don’ts when it comes to expungement and elected officials will give a rundown of cannabis policies and bills, after which attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions. There will also be career development activities, including resume building, creating LinkedIn profiles and taking headshots. 

“The folks that we have who are coming are coming to hire,” said Perry. “As much as I am for entrepreneurship, I am also for training, and if you can get paid to be trained in this industry, take a job.” 

Perry hopes that this year’s Black Cannabis Week and Cannabis Opportunities Conference will lead to jobs, engage attendees with their legislators and, most importantly, destigmatize cannabis. 

“It’s an industry, it’s a business just like anything else,” said Perry. “The only difference is that this one has probably done more harm to Black and Brown communities than anything else besides cotton.”

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