As we celebrate 4/20, let’s remember that the ‘weed man’ has been gentrified by white people

OPINION: Although cannabis is legal in many states, Black people are still disproportionately punished for the same substance white people are selling to make millions.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Today, April 20, or 4/20, is the one holiday I make sure to celebrate every year. 

As a person born and raised in Los Angeles, I’m serious about the green I burn, the edibles I eat and all things cannabis. I believe, much like Smokey in Friday, that God/Allah/Yahweh/Jehovah put this plant here for us to enjoy it, so I do, every chance I get.

In the days before legalization, when you wanted to get something to smoke, you either had to go to a sketchy part of town to score on the street, or you could call up the “weed man” and take your chances with his reliability—or lack thereof. 

The weed man was always hit or miss. You never knew what strain he was going to be carrying or if this was going to be a bad week for him, and he only had dirt, sticks and stems. He might tell you he is on his way and then take another two hours to get there. He may even not show up until the next day, but you know what? As shoddy as his service was or is, he was our weed man, and we respected the game and his hustle.

These days, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized cannabis for adult use, and 38 states have legalized it for medical use. Cannabis is still considered illegal at the federal level, but that has not stopped so-called “ganjapreneurs” from profiting off of a business for which many Black and brown people are still incarcerated for participating in. 

Imagine if the weed man had an entire magazine and social profiles from which to discuss his exploits and talk about the business side of curb serving. Did you ever think you would see the day when people selling weed would put it on their resume or LinkedIn page? I am going to guess that is a level of privilege reserved for people with lighter skin tones and less melanin than my brothers and sisters in the struggle. 

(Note: this is not an attempt to take down Ganjapreneur magazine. They are just doing their thing based on an ongoing trend. The trend is the problem.)

Even the name “ganjapreneur” is annoying. It just epitomizes the way white people can take something that Black people have been denigrated and criminalized for years and turn it into something “cool” and “hip” for themselves, and no one bats an eye. 

According to the ACLU, “Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana.” The ACLU looked at arrests for marijuana offenses between 2010 and 2018. On average, Black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people. Keep in mind that 9 times out of 10, marijuana arrests are for possession charges. Just having a joint on your person is considered a crime—if your skin is dark.

“For decades, marijuana laws have been used to criminalize Black and Brown people, waste taxpayer money, and fuel the mass incarceration crisis,” the ACLU notes, and these are facts. 

Listen, I’m not going to blow your high today because today is supposed to be about joy, good smoke, good vibes, and feeling LIT. 

So I’m going to leave you with this: As you spark up today, put one in the air for brothers and sisters still locked down because they sold a dime bag. Blow one for the ones who just had a joint on them and got the most extreme forms of “justice” just because some judge could. Light one for all the soldiers in the struggle who are still serving time for the same thing a lot of white people are making millions off of now and getting away with it because they have a storefront. 

Then remember that just cause it’s legal to buy it where you live doesn’t mean the fight is over. 

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to get as high as Martian booty. 


Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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