Marijuana is a loaded topic — pun intended — for many people, symbolizing everything from youth culture, to the drug wars and a booming sector of the economy. The most common images associated with weed are suburban white kids smoking it, and Black men dealing it. And Snoop. Can’t forget about Snoop. But where are Black women in this conversation?
Believe it or not, sisters like (and need) marijuana too. According to a 2011 report on health disparities from the Centers For Disease Control, 37.9 percent of Black women died of coronary heart disease before the age of 75, compared to 19.4 percent of White women. Black women were also more than twice as likely to die from strokes before the age of 75 (39 percent) than White women (17.3 percent). This is attributed to the chronic, sustained stress of, well, being a Black woman in America. So for this demographic, a healthy dose of kush can literally save lives.
In this episode of Group Think, host Darnell Moore sits down with two Black women leading the charge in weed advocacy. Liz Alexander, founder of She Dreams of Freedom, and Jamela Zarha Williams, founder of HighHowAreYou.com, explain to us that weed has a range of benefits for Black women, from medicinal to economic to, yes, recreational.
Most importantly, these knowledgeable women drop a few facts about the racist history of criminalized marijuana in the United States. Williams points out that Henry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, said in 1937 that marijuana should be outlawed primarily because “cannabis makes Black people think they’re just as good as white people.”
If you think we’ve moved on from that racist history, here’s another fact to consider: as white people capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in 28 states and counting, many Black and brown people are still serving prison time for selling it.
Watch our discussion with Williams and Alexander above to learn more.