Cosmic Profile: Tiffany Watkins

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Pot is political; there’s no doubt about it. As the push towards national legalization is managed state by state, marijuana still has an invisible scarlet letter stamped on every package. It’s glaringly obvious to anyone who has worked in the business long enough that while we have every reason in the world to celebrate the normalization of cannabis consumption, there’s an underlying stigma still attached to its roots.

That means the demand for the schedule I “drug” was built on the backs of minorities, black people and people of color whose only option for economic viability was to deal. Sadly, some of those individuals are still serving lengthy sentences for minor possession. This is still the narrative that our federal government believes but change is coming.

Currently, the map of cannabis legalization is all over the place with 14 states touting “fully legal” status. Another 28 states are mixed with a number of them allowing full medicinal use while simultaneously decriminalizing possession. And only 8 states still firmly stand against use of any kind.

Now with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum as a significant sea change in civil rights, the two topics go hand in hand. In fact, you can’t separate cannabis activism from prison reform or defunding the police as we march towards a more safe and equitable future for everyone in America.

To shed more light on the topic and to call attention to this exciting time for reform, we asked Tiffany Watkins, Old Pal’s Brand Manager about her lengthy tenure as a black woman involved in this space. Through her work and own media channel, Vanguard, she is committed to being on the front lines to not only help the industry evolve but to amplify the voices of women in the business.

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ON THE CHALLENGES WOMEN AND ESPECIALLY BLACK WOMEN FACE IN THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY

In my 27 years of involvement, I have had many opportunities to interact with people on different levels. In the "original market," we were all under the threat of the war on drugs, but as a black woman, I knew that my punishment for the same amounts of cannabis carried by my non-POC counterparts would be much more harsh and devastating. Even worse, my beliefs and causes surrounding this amazing plant would be reduced to criminal behaviors.

Fast forwarding to today's cannabis industry, the harsh punishments still exist and have been joined by barriers to entry into a burgeoning new industry for America. Thankfully, there are many leaders advocating and fighting for equity and opportunity and against social injustices in this space for POCs.



THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HUMANITARIAN ACTIVISM AND CANNABIS REFORM

The industry is taking baby steps toward change. On the frontlines I'm seeing more diversity in teams. I see more products and shops popping up that are black owned. Black people are trying to thrive in a system originally designed to keep us in the shadows.

In order to foster true change in the cannabis industry, POC need to be viewed and treated as equals—with the same access to opportunities such as funding, licensure, and coaching.



VANGUARD MEDIA AS A VOICE FOR CHANGE

Vanguard is a cannabis women’s lifestyle magazine. It is a platform of support and recognition for women-owned companies in the cannabis space.

Many of us work tirelessly to create, build, and solidify success in this industry with ZERO respect or recognition. I created Vanguard to give a voice to, and shine a spotlight on women's accomplishments.



ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN LGBTQ+ RIGHTS AND CANNABIS ACTIVISM

For me as a black queer woman, the connection is seamless. There is pushback and judgment on all fronts. I think the best way to make changes here comes with acceptance and the understanding that who I am is not a choice but the judgment I receive is.

When applied to cannabis it's not much different. Although I choose to advocate for cannabis, the same type of judgment and rigidity exists around my advocacy. If we could have more acceptance around the idea that many of us believe that cannabis has a multitude of benefits and efficacies, we could really begin making waves!



WHAT SUPPORT LOOKS LIKE

I think the first pathway to understanding what POC deals with is understanding that we are viewed differently and held to a different standard. That if I'm caught smoking a joint, my consequences will be far greater than my non-POC counterparts.

Allies will be our greatest strength... Those who will stand with us and help change the minds of those who stigmatize cannabis AND POCs. Additionally, I believe that speaking up when we see injustices is key in noting inappropriate behavior in real time. Stop letting people off the hook for hateful acts.

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