For communities of color, weed has been a business but more recently, more and more state governments are legalizing marijuana- incorporating the weed industry and leaving Black and Brown communities criminalized and serving time for their role in the industry- before it was considered legal. According to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study, marijuana arrests are now over half of the arrests in the U.S- 88% of those arrests were for something as minor as possession of small amounts of marijuana. The study also shows that although there is equal use amongst races, arrests tend to be racially biased with Blacks being 3.73 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana.

Since marijuana is increasingly becoming more legal around the nation, it is also becoming more of a ‘business’ and we are seeing more and more wealthy, white males dominate the industry while minority communities stay behind bars for playing the exact same roles ‘white corporations’ are not benefiting from. For this exact reason, it’s crucial to have representation in the marijuana industry.

Check out these women of color who have taken a leadership role in fighting for representation, equality, and opportunity for people of color in the cannabis industry:

Nina Parks

What the fuck is yellow chocolate? #smh 📸 @biancastarr

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Nina Parks is CEO of Mirage Medicinal, a California state medicinal marijuana operation that serves and delivers cannabis anywhere within San Francisco limits. Mirage Medicinal is currently waiting to be approved for San Francisco’s new Adult Use Cannabis Program. In the meantime, Nina has found herself busy contributing to communities of color with her art, poetry, and activism. Nina understood the beneficial impact cannabis had on patients fighting cancer, HIV, and other ailments. As a youth, Nina also witnessed her friends’ war veteran parents choose to self-medicate on marijuana as opposed to turning to alcohol or painkillers. Nina witnessed first had the natural, safe remedies marijuana can bring to a patient, but when her brother when to jail for a year for marijuana possession, she quickly learned the importance of educating society on the misconceptions of marijuana.

SuperNova Women

Image Credit: East Bay Express

SuperNova Women is founded by Nina Parks, Andrea Unsworth, Tsion Sunshine Lencho, and Amber Senter. The Oakland based organization, “founded by and for women of color”, is breaking down barriers for people of color in the weed industry. SuperNova is focused on encouraging people of color to become major key players in the cannabis industry. Cannabis is quickly becoming a lucrative business and SuperNova wants to make sure the success goes to people of color who understood the benefits of marijuana long before it became legal. Nina explains “It’s another money grab for most white people, a cute thing for them to talk about in cocktail parties. They don’t care about our stories, care very little about culture but they are very interested in exploiting it. This affects POC’s in the industry like it does in every industry, fighting for the preservation of our culture and communities while building a business. People need to be educated about cannabis prohibition as a tactic to oppress and take power away from brown and black communities. Cannabis legalization without our communities voice at the table is an injustice.”

Dr. Lakisha Jenkins

Dr. Lakisha Jenkins is a Master Herbalist with a doctorate on naturopathy and a founding board member of the California Cannabis Industry Association, which, helped write the California legalization laws that just passed. Dr. Jenkins began her career in the cannabis industry shortly after her 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with two different types of brain tumors. Dr. Jenkins quickly questioned whether chemo and radiation was the right treatment for her young daughter and began to research natural and holistic remedies. Unfortunately, Dr. Jenkins’s daughter passed away two weeks before her 12th birthday. Since then, Dr. Jenkins has made an impact in the cannabis industry as a holistic healer and as a voice for minorities. She urges minorities and women of color to fearlessly use their voices to preserve their cultures and positions in the male-dominated industry.

Kush and Cute

Iyana Edourd, from Texas, is representing black women in the white male-dominated cannabis industry with her Cannabis Skin Care & Lifestyle brand, Kush & Cute. Kush & Cute is relatively new- founded only in 2017.  The 23-year-old’s idea for the business came as she was making DIY body products and new introducing hemp in her products would benefit her customers. Besides being young and creative, Iyana hopes to be a strong representation of people of color in the cannabis space.  On their Instagram, Kush & Cute promote and educate their followers with a “Did You Know” post that share facts about how cannabis can help in different aspects of our lives.  Iyana’s purpose is to not only sell high-quality products but to also educate and give the power back to the POC in the industry.

Charlo Greene

Back at it. I’ve missed y’all to much too stay away What I miss??

A post shared by Charlo (@charlogreene) on Feb 1, 2018 at 5:36pm PST

Known for her “Fuck it, I quit” viral video, Charlo Greene’s fierce on-air personality as a reporter became unforgettable, especially after pledging to help legalize marijuana in Alaska. And that, she has. As the Alaska Cannabis club founder, Charlo helped bring the legislation of marijuana to Alaska. As a strong force in the cannabis industry, Charlo is also behind Go Greene, a cannabis diversity summit. Go Greene helps cultivate and develop diversity in cannabis industry and activism spaces. Go Greene also works on representing and uplifting communities who have been targeted and affected by prohibition. Charlo has dedicated her life to cannabis advocacy, but it has come at a high price. She is currently facing 54 years for “misconduct” in the creation of the Alaska Cannabis Club, but she refuses to back down and hopes to inspire a bold and unapologetic attitude in other women in the industry.

Women of color are leading the representation of people of color in the cannabis industry, whether it is as consultants, healers, or entrepreneurs, they are making sure that the Black and Brown communities are being represented in the industry and in courtrooms fighting against unjust minor marijuana-related charges.