How Black businesspeople were left out of Washington’s green gold rush after marijuana was legalized

The news spread like wildfire: Basketball legend Shawn Kemp would break barriers by opening a Seattle cannabis retail store.

The October news release proclaimed Kemp’s Cannabis would be the city’s first Black-owned retail cannabis store.

But much like racial equity in the cannabis industry in general, the reality was much murkier. The company later walked back its claim of being the first Black-owned cannabis store and acknowledged that Kemp was not one of the shop’s five majority owners at the time it opened on Oct. 30. Last week, the city said Kemp owns just a 5% stake in the business.

The confusion around Kemp’s Cannabis is just the latest example of the uphill battle to create racial equity in the cannabis industry.

Just like in every other aspect of the criminal legal system, African Americans have long borne the greatest brunt of the country’s racially biased drug enforcement policies. In a 2020 report, the American Civil Liberties Union said that even after legalization, Washington still saw more than two times the number of Black people arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite having roughly the same rate of use. In Whatcom County, that number jumps to Black people being over nine times more likely to be arrested. [Read more at The Seattle Times]

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