South Park Calls Out Inequities In Colorado Cannabis

While the Simpsons writers have proven themselves right time and time again when it comes to predicting future events, the writers of South Park are in their wheelhouse tackling the issues of today.

Among the targets set by South Park writers is the state of cannabis in Colorado. The state was once thought of as a paradise for equitable business, but in recent years, trends towards monopolized business, white-owned enterprise, and legal complexity for former cannabis sellers have reached a fever pitch.

Why is this important? Because if your industry has become so much a parody of itself that its place on the global stage is little more than a joke, it may be time to pursue serious reform.

“The Big Fix” And What Needs Fixing

The episode begins in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, where the 2022 Cannabis Cultivators Expo is being held. At an event called the “Changing Face of Hemp Farming,” an unaware speaker delivers a request to a predominantly white crowd, further highlighting his ignorance.

Despite the irony, his words ring true to viewers who are in on the joke: 

“We growers must face a harsh reality. Since the legalization of marijuana, communities of color — Black and Brown Coloradans, those most affected by the racist War on Drugs — have now been locked out of the wealth creation of the industry.”

While this statement is valid on the surface, the issue also cuts much deeper than out-of-state viewers might realize for those with prior convictions regarding cannabis. Namely, how the legalization regulations dealt with only half of the equality problems recognized at the onset of Colorado’s legislative changes.

Recently, Colorado has begun pursuing more significant equity measures, including the pardoning of over 2,700 cannabis-related charges. Additionally, with the help of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, $4 million was dedicated to equitable funding for cannabis businesses, alongside licenses that were reserved for potential owners fitting diversity criteria.

“From a historical perspective, we’ve watched Colorado grow its social equity programs,” says Jordan Wellington, a partner at VS Strategies in Denver. “Initial funding is $4 million. I don’t think we’re going to stop there. We’re certainly going to ask for more — but that’s a great start for this program.”

Amendment 64 And Where Colorado Went Wrong

As John Bailey (head of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative) notes, “Amendment 64 dealt with social exclusion and not social equity, which is inclusion.” This refers to how, when viewed singularly, it is hard to produce any legislature that creates equitable outcomes. Simply putting the resources out there equally does nothing to level an already unjust playing field. Especially when past cannabis convictions are on the table.

If you have run into cannabis law troubles before, you are banned from participating in the market for ten years. While this sounds like basic tenets of insurance, it creates an ethical problem. Before legalization, marginalized communities were expected to face the brunt of cannabis searches, charges, and convictions. Now, they are being asked to sit on the sidelines while white businesses and those without cannabis industry knowledge are invited to profit.

Even South Park recognizes the irony in white legislators directing traffic to white business owners while those businesses promote equality from within the industry.

Despite equity initiatives, the raw numbers from Colorado’s Department of Revenues don’t reflect positively on the legislation either, as only 16.9% of licensees have owners who identify as a visible minority.

Beard Bros believes in an equitable future for the American cannabis sector. That begins with listening to, aiding, and legally forgiving those who have been harmed by exclusionary policies and the war on drugs. Starting your own business is a struggle, but more difficult still with laws that prevent you from contributing to future cannabis endeavors.

For more on cannabis in popular culture, click here to read how the NFL is taking steps to reverse its past treatment of cannabis on and off the field.

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