Racial inequality in the cannabis industry is profiled in a new documentary by UNCODE called Great Smoke. The war on drugs here in the U.S. has affected minorities more than white people and despite legalization in many states clemency is not being granted during or after incarceration.
Last October, in an update to their 2013 “War on Marijuana in Black and White” report, the ACLU stated that even after the decriminalization of cannabis in Massachusetts, black people were still disproportionately targeted and arrested for the sale and possession of cannabis in comparison to other ethnicities. “Black people continue to be arrested at higher rates for marijuana offenses than white people, despite the fact that white people use and sell at similar rates,” the ACLU wrote. “Disparity between black and white arrest rates also increased [over] several years since decriminalization.”
Historically, black and brown communities have been hit the hardest by the War on Drugs. And most states with legalized recreational cannabis have enacted laws to prohibit individuals with felony convictions — especially drug convictions — from working or starting a business in the legal cannabis industry, fueling today’s lack of representation of people of color in all facets of the so-called green rush.
The UNCODE’s latest installment in their digital series of short-stories “told across the African diaspora” is Great Smoke. The ten-minute documentary spotlights the life of Jesce Horton, an award-winning cannabis cultivator and the co-founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. The film focuses on Horton’s unique journey and perspective as a black entrepreneur and activist in the legal cannabis industry. Great Smoke also features physician Rachel Knox, a “canna MD” who educates viewers about the synergy between cannabis and our bodies’ very own endocannabinoid system, as well as how cannabis can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of illnesses that afflict the black community, in particular. Cannabis activist Nikki Coleman also gets real about America’s epic fail with the War on Drugs, and Grammy award-winning rapper Killer Mike makes a special appearance to talk marijuana law reform and rising incarceration rates due to non-violent drug arrests.
MERRY JANE caught up with husband and wife team Ali and Myisa Plancq-Graham, creators of UNCODE, to discuss their latest short-form documentary. On top of breaking down how Great Smoke came to fruition, the entrepreneurs shared what surprised them most during filming and why they feel it’s important to give a platform to black professionals making waves in the cannabis industry.