How black women are reclaiming the cannabis industry

These days just about everything is infused with CBD, a chemical compound from the cannabis sativa plant.
Priscilla Ward

These days just about everything is infused with CBD, a chemical compound from the cannabis sativa plant.

Unlike its cousin, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient in marijuana, CBD is not psychoactive. Medically it’s known as the cure-all, treating everything from arthritis to cramps, without the potential side effects of modern medicine. As CBD continues to take hold of wellness conversations, the colonization of the marijuana industry cannot be ignored.

It dates back to President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the War On Drugs in 1971, which continued into the 1980s and 1990s. During that time, Black people were locked up for smoking weed or having as little as an ounce on them.

Fast forward to 2014 when the D.C. Council passed Initiative 71, which helped D.C. join 32 states in decriminalizing the recreational use of cannabis. While Black people in the District are no longer being arrested at the same alarming rates as the 1980s and 1990s, they still make up 90 percent of marijuana-related arrests in a city that’s only 45 percent Black.

The numbers are continually disturbing. Less than a fifth of the people involved in the cannabis industry are people of color, a 2017 survey found; Black people made up only 4.3 percent. Despite these numbers, Black women are leading the charge to shift this narrative by starting cannabis businesses in the D.C. metropolitan area.

In 2018, Hope Wiseman launched Mary and Main, Maryland’s first Black woman-owned marijuana dispensary. Mary and Main helped set a new precedent and dispel the myth that cannabis is just a pothead’s potion. Black women only continue to innovate in an industry undergirded by racial inequity.

CBD is the new Black, it’s yet another space that’s being gentrified,” said Suzzette Wright, the founder of Lastnamebourgeoisie. Wright, a pharmacist by day, decided to tap into her love of cooking and marijuana by infusing her food with CBD and sharing her creations with friends.

I had experimented with CBD I think like four or five years ago. I tried CBD and I was like ‘wow this does everything THC does without the anxiety-induced feeling.’” Wright said. “I have started infusing oils with THC and then I started doing the CBD, which is legal,” she added.

While she doesn’t offer catering services, Wright does want to help introduce a wider group of Black women to the benefits of cooking with CBD. Sprawled across her Instagram feed one will find a decadent display of entrees, everything from infused tacos to chickpea samosas. This spring, she will release a line of CBD-infused olive oil as well as a chimichurri and Al Ajillo seasoning.

Adding to the culinary fusion of CBD is Be Edible, started last year by A. Parker, offering wine and other sweet treats.

We had always been interested in edibles because we were NOT interested in smelling like a pound of weed everywhere we went. We are ladies, right?,” Parker said. “The pandemic hit, and people kept asking me to infuse items for them. So we figured, we’d turn it into a business,

You’ll find everything from infused riesling and rose to cupcakes,” she continued. “We thought about ways we could infuse foods that were not the brownies or other high sugar treats you’d normally see or think about when anyone mentions edibles.”

In the same vein, helping to shift the paradigm around the CBD industry is Naseya Hill, the founder of Pink Stone, a business curating CBD experiences. Hill launched her business in 2017 out of the desire to bring Black women together.

I had this idea that I wanted to get Black women together to experience cannabis in a cultural setting, Hill said, noting WEEDIQUETTE a show on Vice about the benefits of cannabis, as her inspiration. Though COVID has put a pause on bringing people together for functions, Pink Stone events of the past have included everything from high yoga to CBD-infused dinner parties.

I want to focus on opportunities for women to get into the cannabis space, and opportunities for women to explore how it could benefit them and their lifestyle,” Hill said. Inclusion spans from involvement in cultivation to branding and messaging. Black women must be represented at all of those tables.

When we say inclusion, we’ve been included in the cannabis space, but not in the way that I would like to see it,” Hill told WI Bridge.

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