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    Community and Cannabis

    A priest, a sister and a musician walked into a bar. The priest ordered a scotch, the musician a beer, and then the sister pulled a joint out of her pocket.


    “What are you doing, Sister Margaret!” the priest cried out. “Are you trying to kill yourself, put that dangerous drug away.”


    Sister Margaret leaned in close to the priest and asked, “Father, have you heard about the boy who overdosed on weed?”


    “No Sister Margaret, when did that happen?”


    “Never,” laughed the musician with his arm around the sister and the joint between his lips.

    “Because weed doesn’t kill, that’s the job of alcohol.”


    I haven’t always been a fan of marijuana, or what I prefer to call cannabis, but for the past few years I have invested in educating myself about this plant and why it is so different from alcohol. Turns out, it is very different. But I understand that where you’re from and who lives near you and how you’ve been treated by authority and what consequences you’ve suffered for consuming cannabis and when you came of age all impact your understanding of this plant. But this new industry is filled with people like me, people open to change and looking for a new start.


    As a white-Jewish-lawyer-mom trying to restart her career I am not an anomaly in the local cannabis community, but there are not that many like me. Regardless, what I love about the New England cannabis community is that it feels welcoming to all, even if some have not embraced us, yet.


    In addition, it’s very exciting that some municipalities across the Commonwealth are now embracing the opportunities opened with cannabis legalization, but disheartening that others remain fearful following the years of criminalization. The Cannabis Control Commission (https://mass-cannabis-control.com/about-us-2/) is working on informing city and town leaders across the state by sharing the stories of those communities now benefitting from cannabis legalization. On December 18th the CCC hosted an informative panel of cannabis friendly communities at the Social Law Library in Boston (http://www.socialaw.com) that convinced this cannabis mom that any communities not embracing the normalization are going to miss out. I would argue that almost everyone on this planet will benefit from the decriminalization of the cannabis plant, and that’s not just the opinion of this cannabis mom.


    But it’s still very hard for many to believe that a demonized “drug” can help the people they love and support the places they call home and even heal our battered world when the tragic and racist policies of the past century have decimated the communities many non-supporters live in. That is why the cannabis community must now step up and embrace all the tools available to address the issues of social inequity to ensure that those most harmed by the war on drugs will benefit from cannabis legalization.


    Traumatized communities are now less likely to benefit from the legalization of cannabis because it is so hard to assure those injured most that the stigma and fear mongering of the past is truly being erased. Two local organizations working on social equity in the Commonwealth, who this cannabis mom supports, are the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council (MRCC), advocates for a safe and equitable industry for consumers and small business (https://massreccouncil.com), and Elevate Northeast (https://www.elevatene.org), women and minority business people supporting the Northeast US's growing cannabis industry.


    In addition, the Cannabis Control Commission launched their social justice initiative this month (https://mass-cannabis-control.com/equityprograms/), and private companies like Sira Naturals are setting up incubator programs to accelerate the development of local products from communities harmed most by the laws of the past. (https://accelerator.siranaturals.org/cannabis-microbusiness-sira-accelerator)


    We all know how hard it is to catch up from a deficit, so it is imperative in this birthing of a new industry to ensure the deficit between those inside and outside the ever expanding cannabis community does not fester and grow. Everybody in the local and national cannabis communities must stay focused on ensuring that the rules and players in this new industry are inclusive with fewer silos and more transparency. Together, this exciting new community must work to ensure our shared goals of healing and educating and achieving financial success for every level of involvement includes women, minorities and especially those hurt most by the negative and criminal practices of the past.