Episode 4 - Why Is The Cannabis Industry So Damn White?

An interview Jacob Plowden & Molly Adams from the Cannabis Cultural Association.


It may be called the green rush but 90% of the cannabis industry is another color, and that color is white. And male. And probably straight. That’s less a criticism than an observation. Our guests this week, Jacob Plowden, founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association and his Aunt Molly Adams, want to change that. They span three generations of use within one family but because of when and how they grew up, share totally different experiences.

Historically, there are several reasons for this color/gender imbalance.

It goes back to the 1930s when Cannabis Prohibition became the law of the land. To a large extent Prohibition had its roots in racism. Marijuana came from Mexico, the land of poor brown people, and when those people started flooding across the border to flee the economic misery unleashed by the Great Depression a tide of anti-immigrant fervor took hold. “Reefer” was also used in the American jazz scene, which was led by African Americans. The fear was that the evil weed would cause white women to have sex with black men. Those implications persisted for long time.

Today, the issues are as much social as socio economic. The ACLU says that of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, 88% were for simple possession of marijuana; African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be busted for possession than whites.  In other words, for a white guy like me, a bust was a slap on the hand. For a man of color, it was a ticket to orange.

Unfortunately, even as legalization spreads across the country, many states ban applicants from obtaining cannabis business licenses if they have any criminal record, even for misdemeanors. California is changing that when it goes legal in 2018. Their laws recognize that it’s unfair is it to punish people throughout their lives for a crime that most of us listening to this podcast don’t consider criminal at all. Not every state is as forgiving. And of course, the high cost of launching a cannabis business is also keeping people of color at bay. It’s often in the high 6 figures and increasingly into the many millions.

In other words, there’s a lot of work to do to changing the complexion of the cannabis industry. Tune in to hear how one group is tackling the challenge.

Joe Dolce