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  • Christopher Smith, Publisher

Cannabis Caught Between Causation and the Creative Class

TRIGGER WARNING: if you have a problem with racist Reefer Madness propaganda you might want to take a break right now, because this article is going to catch your hair on fire.

Cannabis Now, an industry publication I like and respect - well-designed, diverse topics, well-written, etc. - has put out an article so full of logic-breaks that if it were a map, you'd never arrive at your destination. I don't typically go after anyone on the home team (industry folk), but I'm confused and disturbed by Are States Redlining Cannabis Dispensaries?, dated 24 February.

The article leads with this:

Urban decay” in America speaks a universal language, a vernacular seen and heard in movies, political ads and in real life. It sounds like this: Broken windows, vacant buildings, graffiti-covered walls and doors. Ne’er do-wells loitering outside liquor stores and pornography merchants (less visible in the online era but still a part of this classic trope)"

(Yes, Cannabis Now actually printed “Pornography merchants” in 2022...)

“... But thanks to cannabis legalization, struggling areas in America have another feature: legal cannabis dispensaries. The higher concentration of dispensaries in America’s lower income areas may be due to the destructive practice of “redlining.”

The author seems to be suggesting that dispensaries are located in poorer parts of American cities and towns NOT because of the greater availability and lower cost of real estate in these parts of town, but because of the machinations of a cabal of white people who have banished them to "the other side of the tracks" such as happened by banks and related businesses that successfully designed neighborhoods and whole towns to make black ownership of real estate and black wealth development next to impossible.

Think I'm crazy? Read on:

"According to recent research out of Washington state and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, along with other elements “polite society” may deem unsavory, cannabis dispensaries also tend to coalesce in lower-income areas, which in turn—since race so often correlates with class—also tend to be less white.”

It's important to follow the links. This "study" (which you can rent for $36 for 2 days like a Blockbuster video), seems to have been drafted alongside the playbook of our enemies aka “Don’t Tell Your Children” (the original name for "Reefer Madness").

From the summary:

“This study examined impacts of local area-level factors on CANNABIS USE IN YOUNG ADULTS....

  • ... PERCEIVED access to cannabis was higher among those living near cannabis retail outlets (is this science or opinion?)

  • Neighborhood disadvantage was associated with cannabis use and PERCEIVED acceptability

  • Area-level PREVENTION STRATEGIES may be warranted to reduce cannabis-related harms."

This is not a study, it’s an ANTI-CANNABIS AGENDA, which is by definition a racist agenda. It links cannabis with poverty in loose and suggestive ways that suggest causation - i.e. that cannabis causes harm when poverty is the real culprit. This is the "why can't you pull yourself up by your bootstraps?" logic that conservatives use when lecturing black and brown people about how it is their own failures - not decades or centuries of racism - that is responsible for their poverty.

Not done yet:

"Keep in mind how cannabis legalization was pitched to policymakers and the public after decades of cannabis-centered drug war overpolicing and incarceration. The fact that these cannabis businesses are more often than not owned by white investors and entrepreneurs who are extracting revenue that once went to “traditional market” sellers from Black and Brown communities only further highlights what’s yet another shortcoming in marijuana legalization’s social-justice mission."

The bold text throughout is mine, and this one is particularly insidious: did you catch it, black and brown people? You're the street dealers (and also the arrestees and prisoners at a rate of about 4x the rate of white people, who apparently never dealt drugs).

And by the way, if white people own all the cannabis businesses now as you say here, and white people are being redlined, isn't the irony worth mentioning?

I'll give the author credit for the following observation:

"Study authors noted it wasn’t immediately clear if people in low-income areas smoked cannabis because that’s where the cannabis was, or if coping with the stresses of living a disadvantaged, over-policed area meant more cannabis use." Finally, correlation does not equal causation, chicken does not follow egg.

But back to real estate, which is what this article is supposed to be about.

Why do cannabis businesses really locate in poorer parts of town?

  1. Real estate is less expensive, and cannabis businesses are largely start-ups or early stage companies in a very competitive industry, where expenses are critical. Manage expenses; this is simply sound business.

  2. Richard Florida, author of the seminal work on urban development “The Rise of the Creative Class” observed that downtrodden sections of great cities in America have been economically reinvigorated by a similar and predictable process:

    1. First, gay people move into a downtrodden neighborhood

    2. Then, Artists and other creatives get the idea and start to move in

    3. Finally, when this downtrodden part of town is recognized as “cool”, Investors come and the redevelopment begins in earnest.

I'm not saying that gentrification is kind or fair, but Richard Florida ain't no slouch and at least a decade of urban development strategies sprung from his theories.

So how about this: cannabis businesses are not being redlined, WE ARE THE VANGUARD OF URBAN REDEVELOPMENT and bring:

  • Jobs and the secondary businesses that grow up to support employees

  • Life-changing and legal medicine to people who need it

  • Emotional relief products that are less addictive than anything else, and non-deadly, unlike nicotine, alcohol, opiates, and sugar - - the big 4 killers in low-income communities

  • Customers with Cash, who tend to stay and shop in the neighborhood, increasing economic activity more broadly

  • Bodies and eyeballs, which reduces crime and increases personal security

  • Eventually, new investment and economic resources to those communities.

Cannabis Now, please don't forget that WE ARE THE CREATIVE CLASS in virtually every way. And you are, too.


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