Black History Month in Canadian Cannabis


Stash Magazine Canadian Cannabis

As a white-owned and run publication covering the Canadian cannabis industry we try to use our privilege to prioritize and highlight Black-owned cannabis businesses but there's a few problems with that.

The first problem is our own bias. There's really only two of us working to keep this thing alive and we are both white. We will naturally gravitate to people who look the same and despite knowing this, we'll still do it. Even when we do cover a Black-owned business we won't ask the same questions that somebody who is a person of color might think to ask. This isn't an intention thing: we obviously mean to do well but to deny the reality of a behaviour simply because the intention was good doesn't negate the impact of that behaviour.

The second big problem is the lack of Black-owned cannabis businesses in Canada (and elsewhere). When we reported on High Off Fumes, a cannabis accessory company run out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we cited some figures from a CBC article about this issue: about 1% of cannabis business in Canada are led by Black people.

Perhaps one of the major reasons there aren't more Black leaders in the Canadian cannabis market is because many of them were criminalized and remain so today.

When the Trudeau government legalized recreational cannabis they did nothing for the people who had been charged for possession, distribution, production or any other criminal charges related to cannabis. Only after extensive lobbying did the federal government finally lower the cost of applying for a pardon. They didn't remove all pardons at once with the stroke of a pen they simply lowered the cost.

The criminalized person then has to go through a lengthy and still-costly pardon process to remove a record created by the state. They are then restricted in certain areas of employment, specifically in the cannabis industry. How this process is supposed to reduce future illegal behaviour is unknown, but its effect is clear: there remains hundreds of people criminalized for something the government now collects millions of dollars in taxes from. That's why we dedicated our first Volume to Cannabis Amnesty, they're an organization focused on helping those criminalized for a harmless plant. We encourage you to go and donate to them.

The Canadian weed scene was built on the backs of non-whites and nothing about our legal industry reflects that. So what can a couple of white stoner-journalists do about this?

1. We pledge to always listen when our reporting is criticized for a lack of diversity. We also pledge to check our own bias when listening to these and other criticisms and work with the concerned reader to address the issue at the root of the problematic reporting. We acknowledge we have blinders on but it doesn't mean we can't work to remove them.

2. When we hear about a Black-owned business or a story about the Black community in cannabis we will do our best to report on it. We encourage tips on this topic (and any other topic) which can be sent to us on our contact page (or through Instagram direct messages).

3. We are always on the lookout for talented writers and will continue to look for diverse contributors to ensure diversity of coverage. Even if you don't have journalism experience we can teach! We don't pay much but we do pay slightly above market rates for freelance journalism. Reach out to us on Instagram or on our contact page to get in touch if interested.

If there's something else you think we could or should be doing when it comes to how we cover the Black community in Canadian cannabis please let us know on our contact page.


Will McEwen




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