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As protests continue, some activists question cannabis industry’s silence

Jun 2, 2020

Protests continued for another day and into the evening Monday following the death of George Floyd, an African American man from Minnesota who was killed on Memorial day when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed. Across the country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, members of the black community and their allies from Los Angeles to Philadelphia took to the streets to show law enforcement and those in power that racial intolerance, injustice, and outright murder would no longer be tolerated.

Over the weekend, some demonstrators pulled the cannabis industry into the fray, damaging stores and stealing merchandise. But as industry executives focused on their losses, their silence towards the movement became more noticeable to some activists.

Demonstrations, which were, by and large, peaceful veered into chaos marred by mostly white outside agitators from both the extreme right and left, both of whom appeared to be either co-opting or sabotaging the movement. The response by local and state law enforcement officers was erratic too, as cell phone video captured at many scenes showed uniformed police targeting protestors, harassing individuals, beating civilians, and running them over with their vehicles

Pot shops and dispensaries were among the many businesses to suffer damage at the hands of some of the more erratic crowds this week, with store owners in several states posting messages on social media discussing their losses. Scores of people swept through a MedMen dispensary in Los Angeles, as video shared on Twitter showed the crowds walking out with the brand’s iconic red bags.

In other cases, store owners themselves took to social media to communicate with customers. Debby Goldsberry, the owner of Magnolia Oakland, announced on Facebook that several stores, including Magnolia, were hit by armed robbers — not protestors. According to her post, the intruders took almost everything, with the police not responding for nearly an hour.

“We are a small, local, mostly woman operated company, with just this one small shop, and this will hit us hard,” wrote Goldsberry on Facebook. “We were already barely hanging on with the virus and in survival mode.”

On the East Coast, in cities like Philadelphia, many dispensaries shut down operations hoping following similar issues with unrest stemming from the demonstrations. Jushi Holdings Inc. CEO Jim Cacioppo, the owner of the Beyond/Hello dispensary franchise, announced on Monday that the company would delay the grand opening of its newest store in Pennsylvania, while also closing two dispensaries in the Center City and Northern Liberties sections of Philadelphia. Both Philadelphia locations experienced break-ins over the weekend.

“We fully support an individual’s right to freedom of speech and the touching, peaceful demonstrations that we have seen around the country,” said Cacioppo in a statement sent out on Monday. “We are heartbroken by the murder of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country that we not only work in but live and love.”

“Unfortunately, certain opportunistic bad actors have at times manifested unacceptable behaviors,” he continued before announcing the store closings. 

Along with Cacioppo, several store owners, including Goldsberry, expressed messages of support to the African American community. Hip-hop artist Berner, whose store was also robbed this weekend, took to Instagram to tell protestors and black Americans that justice was more important than the damage to his store.

“I cannot expect anything less until justice is served,” said Berner. “See, we could rebuild our store, but you cannot bring someone back to life. With that being said, we stand with what’s going on in the world… how can I worry about a store when there’s so much more going on in the world right now?”

But the overall sentiment from the cannabis industry this weekend seems to have been silence. The organization Minorities for Medical Marijuana, a grassroots group the fights for equality in the cannabis industry posted on Twitter yesterday “Where’s the cannabis community?” They included a link to a Change.org petition titled “Cannabis Industry Stands in Solidarity: Justice for George Floyd #blacklivesmattter,” with a prescient image captioned with the phrase “I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.”

The PotNetwork contacted Minorities for Medical Marijuana, but unfortunately, it was past press deadline before they could respond. But on the petition they wrote, which as of this writing now has 738 out of 1000 requested signatures, they mourned the loss George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota officer Derek Chauvin and took the cannabis industry to task for not stepping up during this time.

“The tragic death of George Floyd sits heavy on the hearts of many,” notes the petition before recognizing that the immense pain it brings grows more substantial with every viewing of the horrific video of his murder. “The Cannabis industry is the US #1 growing job sector. The industry's foundation can be linked back to social injustice and social inequity towards people of color.” 

It continues: “Stand now in solidarity with Black men and women who are more likely to be racially profiled....who are more likely to be incarcerated for cannabis....who are more likely to get passed over for a job in this industry...who are more likely to be killed by those who are supposed to protect us. This affects us all.”

The petition ends with a message of hope, stating that “together we can be the change that makes a difference.” 

So far, the petition has been sparsely shared on social media, though it is readily apparent that black communities are paying attention. Cannabis industry insiders have long claimed to be at the forefront of social justice. Still, statistics show that until now, it has been window dressing used to cover up a what is a significant disadvantage for people of color.

The silence is deafening.

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