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Black people need to take ownership of the cannabis industry that we pioneered

Last night’s (Aug. 20) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” episode titled “High Hopes” discussed the Black community’s role in the cannabis industry. Host Eboni K. Williams was joined by N.O.R.E., John and Tyla Salley, Gunplay, Shanita Penny, and Rep. Barbara Lee.

Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of Black people for Black people.

Last night’s (Aug. 20) “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” episode titled “High Hopes” discussed the Black community’s role in the cannabis industry and cannabis police initiatives. Host and executive producer Eboni K. Williams was joined by N.O.R.E., Shanita Penny, Rep. Barbara Lee, John and Tyla Salley, and Gunplay.

N.O.R.E., John and Tyla were up first to talk the business. “The main reason why most Black people are left behind is because there’s still a lot of stigma towards the cannabis plant as a whole and that needs to be changed,” Tyla said. “Black people were basically the pioneers of the industry and it’s not fair when you go into a boardroom and it’s 90 percent white.” She also expressed that fighting for the Black community in the industry is a driving force behind her and John’s business moves.

“Why not us own those actual businesses that we’re saying to go smoke and go be part of?” N.O.R.E. challenged after breaking down the importance of ownership and taking back our seat at the table. He continued to praise Black culture for having key influence in the industry, and discussed the importance of investing in Black-owned cannabis businesses and social equity groups if you’re looking to become involved. John hopped into the conversation to suggest the league allow athletes to use marijuana to sustain the future of professional sports. “Alcohol is detrimental to your liver,” he said in comparison to cannabis, “and this right here is proving to be good for your kidneys and your liver and your bloodstream.”

Hope Wiseman, the youngest Black woman to own a dispensary in the United States, dropped in with a brief video message about Mary & Main Dispensary. “Although there’s a lot of red tape around the industry right now, I really see how the early players are gonna have a huge market share in the future,” Wiseman shared. For those who want to be involved, but may not know how, she suggested becoming involved in the legislative process to develop your understanding of the industry as a whole, influence the laws that govern the programs you wish to join, and connect with government officials.

On the topic of Sen. Kamala Harris formally accepting her nomination as vice president, political editor at ESSENCE Tanya Christian joined. “I do believe she identifies as Black,” said Christian, “and I think as a community, we should probably stop putting people on levels of Blackness.” Williams added that she had only ever heard the vice president nominee refer to herself as Black while embracing her Indian mother’s background. “Our individual Blackness can also encompass nationalities and ethnicities that are broad,” said Williams, “so I think it’s a pretty whack thing that some folks in the culture like to do.”

“We do need to do the research and we do need to make sure that we’re informed before we start completely casting people out and saying we’re not going to vote on November 3rd,” Christian concluded. “It’s too important to base our decision on what we heard.” On the flip side, rapper Gunplay expressed his opposition to Senator Harris’ views due to her past as a prosecutor and her past views on prison reform. “She’s coming into a seat of power [where] she’s a prosecutor at heart,” he said to Williams. “Once a prosecutor, always a prosecutor.”

Last night’s “Headlines” included the $600 million settlement for the Flint water crisis, Larry Demery’s parole release date following his life sentence after the murder of Michael Jordan’s father, and a spark in Coronavirus outbreaks on college campuses across the country. “Please wear your mask, social distance and be careful,” Williams said in response to colleges reopening. Other news stories included Biden’s formal acceptance of the democratic presidential nomination and Senator Harris’ acceptance earlier this week. Williams deemed Harris’ acceptance as “an opportunity for a turning point” and “an opportunity for a do-over that has the highest stakes imaginable.”

Jason Lee joined Williams for the “Black Excellence in Entertainment” segment to converse about Sway Calloway’s and “The Breakfast Club’s” inductions into the Radio Hall of Fame, Common’s debut of his wellness series, “Com & Well;” Jemele Hill and Cari Champion’s “Stick To Sports” debut, and Tyler Perry’s projected acceptance of the 2020 Governor’s Award at the Primetime Emmys. Following the conversation with Lee, Williams passed the mic to Shanita Penny and Congresswoman Barbara Lee for a discussion about cannabis and politics. When Penny asked Rep. Lee about her opinions on how Senator Harris’ nomination will impact the industry, she had a positive response.

“She knows this industry, she knows the laws very well, and she supports legalization,” she said. In contrast, Rep. Lee explained that Biden has “not quite gotten there yet,” though he supports decriminalization, expungement of records, restorative justice and medicinal marijuana. “Just as President Obama evolved around marriage equality, Joe Biden is going to have to evolve around legalization and I think that Senator Harris as vice president will push that,” she said.

“Descheduling creates an opportunity to truly address the harms of the drug war to create and take advantage of all of the potential economic benefits,” said Penny. She continued to challenge REVOLT audience members to reach out to elected officials to ensure inclusion and safe banking in the next round of Coronavirus relief, while urging the government to respect the cannabis industry as it would “any other taxpaying industry.”

Williams closed out the conversation by saying the information given on last night’s episode will be meaningless if we do not apply it to our voting power. “If we don’t elect politicians that align with that,” Williams said regarding the legalization of cannabis at the state and federal level, “then Black folks can say goodbye to all of that opportunity of the ‘Green Rush’.”

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