What is Juneteenth & Why it Matters
Published on 6/12/21
Cannabis has played a major role in the disproportionate, wrongful imprisonment of black Americans, which is why it's so important we discuss Juneteenth. To make right the wrongs that have long been perpetuated in America surrounding racism, the cannabis community needs to educate itself and keep equality and representation at the forefront of everything we do. It's up to us to make the change and be the difference. Let's start by looking at Juneteenth history, what it is, why it's so important, and what you can do to show support on Juneteenth 2021.
Juneteenth Meaning & History
Juneteenth is celebrated annually on June 19th and commemorates the last day of slavery in the United States. While the emancipation proclamation was enacted in 1862, it wasn't until three years later on June 19th of 1985 that Texas became the final state to recognize the abolishment of slavery. And so, Juneteenth is a celebration of independence. June 19, 2021 will mark the 156th anniversary of complete freedom from slavery in the United States of America. Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth has been celebrated for over 150 years, but only in the last year has it reached a wider cultural audience (a nod to the underlying racism that has long been perpetuated through almost every aspect of society).
It's probably safe to say that a majority of (white) Americans didn't know about Juneteenth before 2020; however, since the eruption of a renewed civil rights movement in the wake of George Floyd's murder on May 25th, 2020, Juneteenth gained much more cultural significance. A Juneteenth celebration can involve a wide variety of festivities and traditions. Large gatherings, barbeque, fireworks, music and wine (symbolizing the blood of African-Americans spilled throughout American history) are common, as is shopping at black-owned businesses, participating in a Juneteenth festival, and using the day for advocacy. You may have seen the Juneteenth flag without even realizing it - red and blue stripes with a white star with a burst surrounding it to symbolize the birth of new freedom in Texas and across all fifty states. At the core of almost every Juneteenth celebration is one underlying component: community.
Racism & Cannabis
Unfortunately, as recent events horrendously underline, June 19, 1865 might have marked the first day of freedom from slavery for black Americans, but it did not mark the start of equality. Over 150 years later and black Americans are still being disproportionately murdered, arrested and discriminated against. The history of cannabis in America is one telling example of this, as it is deeply intertwined with systematic racism. From the early anti-cannabis laws of the 1930s to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 and the half-century War on Drugs it launched, keeping systematic control over minorities (primarily black men) has been a major motivation.
Even now, in the 2020s, with rapidly expanding legality and renewed civil rights movements gripping the nation, black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans. In some places, such as Montana and Kentucky, black people are nearly 10 times more likely to be arrested for possession. On top of that, while the cannabis industry is working to make diversity and social equity a primary focal point, there is a disparity in representation within the cannabis industry. Roughly 81% of marijuana business owners are white while only about 4% are black. America's long history of systematic racism has placed the black community in an unequal situation that remains unfair and nearly impossible to navigate in many situations.
How to Be An Ally During Juneteenth 2021
Understanding Juneteenth's history may not solve today's inequality, but it is part of a large understanding that will help us better navigate the future and make true change and effective reparations. If you want to celebrate Juneteenth and make a difference, here are a few ways you can directly impact your community and educate yourself (and others) about this critically important issue:
Shop At Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses
As a consumer, your money holds a lot of power - where you choose to patron reflects who you want to support. One of the easiest ways you can make a direct impact is to shop at black-owned cannabis businesses. While there is not enough representation in cannabis, there are businesses you can support. We encourage you to look up black-owned businesses in your area (cannabis-related or otherwise) and make a statement with who you choose to buy from.
Read About Racism in America
Knowledge is power. Read accounts of racism in America and educate yourself on the larger scope of this issue. One of the best ways you can celebrate Juneteenth and honor the trials, people, culture, and morality it represents is to pick up a book and learn. For starters, we suggest How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
Be Part of a Movement & Sign a Petition
Several organizations are working within cannabis to bring justice and social equity to the black community. One of those organizations is the Last Prisoner Project, which aims to bring about cannabis criminal justice reform and counteract the harm done to black Americans through unjust marijuana-related imprisonment. One of their primary initiatives is "A Time to Heal," a petition you can sign right now. We encourage you to read up on this amazing project and sign the petition.
We believe in the need to have constructive conversations about how to help promote anti-racism and equality in the cannabis community. Please join the conversation in the comments below by letting us know how you think the cannabis community could better improve social equity and make real change.