By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Monday through Thursday, virtual programs will be held to inform people about topics ranging from the history of the plant to health and wellness benefits to business-building. The week will culminate with in-person programming at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa.
On Sept. 22, Black Cannabis Week will host a Policy Summit. On Sept. 23, in collaboration with Pennsylvania State Senator Sharif Street, the free Cannabis Opportunities Conference will takeplace. Then, DACO will close the week with a Day Party on Sept. 24. A large focus of the week will be developing solutions to make cannabis more equitable for Black and Brown people.
The Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities (DACO) commenced Black Cannabis Week on Sept. 17. The week is dedicated to educating and empowering African Americans who are aspiring to enter the cannabis industry or already a part of it.
“We need legislators to really understand the impact that the war on cannabis has on our communities. Second, we need them to understand how those communities can be repaired through equitable legislation,” said Cherron Perry-Thomas, co-founder of DACO and founder of Black Cannabis Week. “Right now, one of the things we hear so many people saying is that entry into the cannabis industry is really expensive, so it limits the amount of people who can actually participate.”
Black Cannabis Week will also delve into the intersection between cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform.
“Those folks who have been incarcerated for cannabis convictions really need to have those convictions overturned, and those people need to be released,” said Perry-Thomas. “Their records need to be expunged because once you have a cannabis conviction, or any conviction on your record, it can be very difficult to find a job.”
During the Policy Summit, attendees will hear from elected officials and political advocates about their cannabis views, solutions and strategies. Chelsea Higgs Wise, co-founder of Virginia-based Marijuana Justice, will moderate the Black Voices in Cannabis Policy panel.
Some of the participating speakers include Dasheeda Dawson, founding director of Cannabis NYC; Gary Chambers, a Louisiana social justice advocate; and Shekia Scott, cannabis business manager for the city of Boston.
On Saturday, the Cannabis Opportunities Conference will feature a Homecoming Row of Black and Brown cannabis businesses, an Advocacy Row of nonprofits working for cannabis equity, a career fair and expungement clinic. There will also be a wellness center with yoga, nutrition consultations, massages and free medical marijuana card registration.
Higgs Wise said education is imperative to ensuring African Americans can get a piece of the billion-dollar cannabis industry, particularly as owners in the space.
“This is a vertical industry from seed to sale. That’s an opportunity for us to jump in from seed to sale,” said Higgs Wise. “From the healing industry, to the technology industry, to the skin industry, to the beauty and wellness industry, cannabis is huge for folks.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.