On this week’s People’s Party with Talib Kweli, B Real joined Talib for a lengthy discussion on how he got his name, early gang life, and marijuana activism and he’s got a message for all you dorks out there who try to smoke him out in the wild — it’s not a competition.
“I have had guys try to take me out on the dabs, ‘oh here goes Dr. Green Thumb, Stoner King or whatever,'” he says. “I’ve had times where people would try to out smoke me like that. Man, it’s not a competition, we’re just getting high, you don’t gotta try to knock me out the box. One, it ain’t gonna happen, you’re gonna knock yourself out before you knock me out.”
Facts. So all you thirsty stoners out there, take note — just be cool.
Kweli took that comment as an opportunity to turn the conversation to a deeper matter: the gentrification of the weed space. Reflecting on the gold-rush-like boom of the marijuana market, Kweli remarked “I found a dispensary that was next door to the gas station and it was so easy and I got really good weed. I was amazed at how people are caking up on it — but the black and brown people are locked out of that, and it’s hard for us to even get into those spaces when we took the risk — our communities took the risk.”
Kweli’s comments bring up an interesting point — generations of black and brown people had to defy the government’s classification of marijuana as a dangerous substance to get to where we are now, where recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states. University of Kansas professor Barney Warf, in an interview with Vice, attributes the origins of recreational weed in America all the way back to the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
“The immigrants fleeing the violence in Mexico brought cannabis into the southwestern US… these Mexican roots of American smokeable cannabis are important because it was known as a colored people’s drug well into the 1960s when the baby boom discovered it and white college kids began to smoke it and it lost its racial connotations.”
People of color made marijuana cool despite government resistance, thanks in part to a tradition of songwriting that has spanned from the time of early Mexican Corridos to Cypress Hill and beyond. Remember, while Jimi Hendrix was singing “Purple Haze,” Bob Dylan was still hiding his drug allusions in biblical references and metaphor.
According to PrisonPolicy.org, “Drug offenses still account for the incarceration of almost half a million people” and “Drug arrests continue to give residents of over-policed communities criminal records, hurting their employment prospects and increasing the likelihood of longer sentences for any future offenses.”
It’s a little hard to start a business when you’re busy serving a life sentence in California for possession, which in turn, has led to the gentrification of the cannabis industry. While there are attempts at remedying this situation, they don’t go far enough.
B Real explains one such problem with the systems we currently have in place for addressing the disproportionate amount of black and brown people in prison for cannabis-related offenses:
“They have this thing called ’social equity’ which means if you’re an offender, if you’ve been convicted of a cannabis-related crime, it’s supposed to put you in the front of the line, and for most it does. That’s a lot of black and brown people that can apply and get some of these licenses, but the problem is a lot of us can’t afford those, and when we try to come in to the scenario we usually come in by ourselves independent with not much financial backing, and they make it very hard for us to exist in that market because of what it cost to actually invest in becoming a cannabis brand or company… If you can’t afford that permit, they have a backup fund that pays for it for you, because they want these permits working, but the problem is even if they give you that you still have to have the capital to start that business.”
B Real has a solution to the hurdles that social equity can’t solve though, “My advice to any black and brown person trying to get in the game, there is a lot of people that are operating the same way the corporate structure does… partnering up with people that want to invest in the cannabis game, but they’re all investing together and going in as one. That’s what our folks need to do.”
The whole conversation is insightful and worth a listen. B Real’s comments on the gentrification of marijuana start at the 44-minute mark.