Fuck the War on Drugs

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For too long, weed has been used as a way to target and criminalize Black and Brown communities around the country. It’s a decades old problem that we still continue to deal with, thanks to ridiculous laws, wasted tax dollars, and mass incarceration. As a cannabis brand dedicated to justice and equality, we’ve had enough and in the words of our wise Old Pal we say, ”fuck the war on drugs!”

While many states have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, there are still some that use outdated and harmful policies to wrongfully charge, convict, and imprison people of color. The fact is, even though Black and White Americans use cannabis at the same rates, Black Americans are much more likely to be criminalized for simple possession. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but for us it’s extra important to shine a light on this - especially for Black History Month.

Since day one, we’ve made it our mission to support and lift up people of color in the cannabis industry. We’re extra grateful for the opportunities to partner with amazing organizations and initiatives like Our Academy, National Expungement Week, Cannaclusive, and Broccoli Magazine. From our inspiring mentorships to enlightening conversations, we’ve learned a lot along the way and we proudly stand with those fighting to heal the scars from the war on drugs.

As part of Black History Month, we here at Old Pal honor the heritage and achievements of Black Americans, and we recognize the systemic racism within our criminal justice system - especially when it comes to our favorite plant. We hope you’ll join us as we work to tear down barriers, lift up Black and Brown communities, and collectively create a fairer, more equitable future for everyone that loves cannabis.

So What is the War on Drugs?

Back in the 1970s, President Nixon started using the term “war on drugs” as a way to describe their fight against harmful drugs - but their real motive was to silence and lock up the Black and Brown community. In 1994 interview, Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, was quoted as saying:

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

Since then, we’ve seen many ups and downs with war on drugs - including a particular 1980s “Just Say No” campaign that targeted people of color and led to a rapid rise of incarcerations from 50,000 in 1980 to 400,000 in 1997.


Photo credit: Ariell Casie

Where Are We Now?

In the last couple decades, things have definitely mellowed out a bit, but there’s still a significant disparity when it comes to arrests for cannabis use and possession. Currently, 27 states have decriminalized cannabis, which means they’ve removed some of the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts. These reforms are great, but there’s still much to be done in other states, and thankfully two out of three Americans now support marijuana legalization. ​​

We’re thrilled to share the wonders of Old Pal in many of these legalized states, but we also know legalization isn’t enough. Racial disparities still exist. Black and Brown communities are still targeted more than White. And the effect of cannabis-fueled arrests are still devastating to families and communities around the country. Here at Old Pal, we recognize the systematic racism that exists in our judicial system, and we promise to keep fighting and spreading positive vibes until everyone can enjoy the wonders of cannabis without having to needlessly look over their shoulder.

Let’s Celebrate Some Black Stoner History…

Black women, and men, have been at the forefront of the weed revolution for a long time - especially in the creative community. American poet icon Maya Angelou was known to enjoy a healthy toke from time to time, ruminating on her stoner adventures in her book “Gather Together in My Name.”

“Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother’s huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity,”

From Louis Armstrong and Josephine Baker, to Jimi Hendrix and Bessie Smith, cannabis has played a huge role in the Black arts community, opening minds to a new cosmos of creativity. Black athletes are also speaking up and leading the way to a brighter, higher future, as entrepreneurs like former NBA player Al Harrington have started their own cannabis brands. His is called Viola (named after his grandmother) and he’s also on a mission to turn 100 Black individuals into millionaires using the cannabis sector.



Where do we go from here?

When it comes to reform, it really boils down to the will of the people. Remember, knowledge is power and it’s up to all of us to educate ourselves, become allies for Black and Brown Communities, and get out the vote for candidates willing to make positive change. If you need a place to get started, here’s a few helpful links that provide a healthy dose of insight and information.

“Cannabis and Black History Month: How can the industry do better?”

ACLU Report:“A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform”

“The Racist Origins of Marijuana Prohibition”

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”

“A Forever Fight: Al Harrington Reflects on Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry”

Want to get involved?

Protests and letters to your representatives are great. In fact, we love them both! But sometimes it’s best to turn your support to Black- and Brown-owned retailers, brands, and dispensaries. When you choose to support these rad businesses, you’ll help to amplify their voices and empower local communities fighting to change the narrative. Here’s some of our favorites for you to check out:

Dose of Saucy
Tess Taylor makes delicious cannabis-infused condiments inspired by Texas BBQ and made for any occasion.

Cannabis on Fire
Founded by Charles Byrd, CoF offers a range of flower and apparel for the Bay Area.

The Good Smoke Co
Good Smoke is dedicated to uplifting marginalized communities from the status quo. Each sale helps us work to identify and promote awareness of community based organizations and local nonprofits making an impact.

Neighborhood Essentials
Detroit-based cannabis and clothing brand founded by Tre Hobbs.

Ardent
Founded by Shanel Lindsay, Ardent is a portable “canna-kitchen” that allows you to easily make your own topicals, tinctures, and edibles in your own home.

Plant-Based Mary Jane
Plant-Based Mary Jane is a collection of Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD products that support wellness and vitality - all at an affordable price.

Viola
Founded by former NBA player Al Harrington, Viola is a premium cannabis operation that carries high-quality flower, pre-rolls, and extracts.

James Henry SF
Black-owned lifestyle, flower, and delivery service founded by John Henry and James Victor.

Duences 22
Father-and-daughter team John and Tyla Salley co-founded this cannabis lifestyle brand They distribute high-quality cannabis products and tackle social justice and cannabis education.


Retailers:

California Street Cannabis - San Francisco, CA

Nevada Wellness Center - Las Vegas, NZ

Royal Highness - Palm Desert, CA

The Farmacy - Berkeley, CA

Posh Green Collective - San Francisco, CA

The Lady Green - Nantucket, MA

Josephine and Billie’s - Los Angeles, CA

The Motherland - Tulsa, AZ

Pure Oasis - Boston, MA


One Final Toke

Even the smallest step can have a huge impact. Just you reading this helps a little, and maybe you pass it onto a pal who then passes it onto ten more. Brighter days are ahead and when we roll together anything is possible - including putting an end to the war on drugs. This Black History Month, let’s spread the love!

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