by Dev T. Smith
Cannabis is a $10 billion dollar industry, showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s estimated that the legal marijuana market is expected to be worth $146.4 billion by 2025. As the industry grows, black people are being systemically blocked from access as a result of being targeted and stigmatized by the “war on drugs.” According to the ACLU, “of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana.”
African Americans are 375% more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. The Cannaramic Online Summit is a five-day informational event designed to demystify and destigmatize cannabis for everyday people, and help change the tides in terms of access to the industry.
Summit co-founder Felicia Palmer spoke with BLACK ENTERPRISE about her transition from the media industry to the cannabis industry, and why the work is so important.
Black Enterprise: Can you explain your experience with breast cancer, and how it triggered your professional transition?
Felicia Palmer: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, it brought me to a place of taking a hard look at my life. I realized that I was responsible for my diagnosis in that I was abusing and mistreating my body — stress, morbid obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and just overall not caring about myself. I learned that 95% of cancers are not genetic but lifestyle-related — what we eat, how we manage stress, exercise, etc.
I also learned how popular cannabis was in the “alternative’ cancer community — people were using high dose THC tinctures and concoctions and reporting tumor shrinkage and relief of chronic pain, sleeplessness, and appetite loss.
What was your process for deciding exactly how you could make a difference in marginalized communities’ experience with breaking into the Cannabis industry?
I got into the cannabis space as a way to educate myself. And the more I learned, the more I started to understand what a powerful and vital resource we had at our fingertips. And I saw how there was this emerging industry that was projected to be $23 billion. I saw the potential for how the cannabis industry could be a means for African Americans to achieve economic empowerment.
How did the idea of doing an online summit come about, and what was the process in putting it together and accumulating hundreds of thousands of anticipated participants?
The idea of the summit was — as I’m learning about cannabis I wanted to take people along with me. So I said, I’m going to interview all of these experts and record their interviews and make them available for the world. I wanted to reach everyday people for cannabis — I didn’t want to preach to the choir. That’s where it got difficult — despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and states as Colorado, and California, have fully legalized adult use, marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 drug on the federal level.
So many of our typical vehicles to reach our communities won’t allow cannabis advertising. For instance, Facebook and Instagram are pretty much the gatekeepers to our communities with a reach of 2.38 billion people. They’ve taken the approach that cannabis pages are allowed but advertising about cannabis — even if it’s only educational — is not allowed. This is the basis of our lawsuit against Facebook. We are saying that, because they control the communication of pretty much the entire planet, they cannot censor valid public discourse of such national importance under the cover that they are a private company and can make their own rules.
What are the key takeaways and results you want participants to leave with?
We want participants to come away empowered, informed, and ready to take action. They should understand CBD and medical marijuana are choices for their chronic illnesses aside from pharmaceutical drugs like opiates that are addictive and deadly. They will know the status of their state’s legalization efforts as well as how things are moving on the federal level and how they can take action in their town. If they’ve been directly impacted with a marijuana arrest or conviction, they will know what is being done to restore and expunge these records and what types of “restitution” opportunities are being made available to them. And they will know about the opportunities for them to participate in the cannabis business and the important considerations to maneuver in this dynamic industry.
Can you explain what information will be shared over the five-day summit?
We are going to be talking with over 25 of the top experts and leaders across the panoramic of the cannabis space — everyone from doctors, scientists, legal experts, activists, entrepreneurs, and athletes. Each day, the viewer will have the opportunity to watch an expert interview from our 5 different tracks: health, business, activism, lifestyle, and education. Each expert will be presenting on a variety of topics from “How to Be An Educated CBD Consumer” to “How to Invest & Win in the Cannabis Industry,” to “The Future of Cannabis In Pro Athletics.” The full daily schedule is at cannaramic.com.
What are your predictions for people of color in the Cannabis industry? Do you see us getting a fair piece of the pie in years to come?
People of color are at a disadvantage already. The cannabis industry is already moving and we currently constitute less than 5% of the businesses in the space while alternately we suffered the most damage and destruction from the “war on drugs.” The majority — I think 80% of the marijuana arrests were black and brown men of color so you see the huge impact this had on our communities. And we’re suffering a type of PTSD that makes it difficult for us to jump head-on into the cannabis industry — many of us see cannabis through a very dark lens due to the destruction in our communities by the war on drugs. So we have to get through all of that before we can even start to think about being in the business. Meanwhile, white men are already locked and loaded and have a majority controlling interest in the cannabis industry. That’s why this summit is so important. We need to get this information to everyone in our communities so we can snap out of it and “get moving” as one of our speakers, Leo Bridgewater, says. We have got to be active with regard to the legalization efforts in our states and nationwide to ensure laws include provisions to expunge, restore and provide opportunities for those in our communities devastated by the “war on drugs.” We need to recognize that cannabis is now and things are happening as we speak whether we are involved or not. There’s still time, but we need to get moving now.