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Message: Industry Bulletin: The Legal Cannabis Industry Owes Reparations—And ‘Green Girl’ Leah Thomas Is Leading the Way

Industry Bulletin: The Legal Cannabis Industry Owes Reparations—And ‘Green Girl’ Leah Thomas Is Leading the Way

posted on Feb 26, 2021 11:55AM

Leah Thomas—one of our 2021 Changemakers—was 23 when she started recreationally using cannabis. She was living in California in 2018, the year marijuana became legal for adult usage in the state. The Missouri native grew up with the mindset that cannabis was nothing more than a gateway drug, but within the comfort of legalization, she began to explore it. It quickly became clear to her that legalization introduced another layer of cannabis inequities.

"Living in Southern California, it just started to irk me that it was so de-stigmatized here for a lot of white users. But being from St. Louis, I knew that people that looked like me from back home weren't afforded that same luxury," says Thomas. "I love Martha Stewart, but I saw her in the New York Times with a necklace of weed gummies—it was a whole article about her and how she's dabbling in cannabis and CBD. And it made me cringe, as a Black woman, because I see what's happening."

What's happening is that the legal cannabis industry, which is projected to reach $30 billion in sales by 2025, is dominated by white people. Eighty percent of legal cannabis businesses are white-owned while Black and brown people continue to feel the repercussions of the War on Drugs, an era of discriminatory policies that disproportionately hurt communities of color. As of September 2019, more than 70 percent of federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses in the United States are Black or Hispanic, despite collectively comprising about 30 percent of the population.

"It felt unfair that I can walk into a dispensary in Southern California without any legal repercussions, but for a majority of people across the country who look like me, the potential for imprisonment is still very real," says Thomas. "I don't like that so much of the current cannabis industry, that is primarily white-led where people are now making billions of dollars, is not really talking about the War on Drugs in their messaging as much as I feel they should be. And how there needs to be some cannabis reparations involved in the industry."

Fighting the fight

You may know Thomas as @greengirlleah—in May 2020, she made a viral Instagram post that illuminated the connection between climate justice and social justice; her following quickly grew from 13,000 to 200,000. At the time, she was furloughed from her job at sustainable clothing retailer Patagonia. When the company offered to bring her back, she saw two options: "Either go back to working full time at a company that I really like, or I take a shot and start this other organization—really just dedicate my life solely to activism," she says. In June of 2020, she left her job to found Intersectional Environmentalist, a collective of environmental activists dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression in the environmental movement.

SOURCE: https://www.wellandgood.com/leah-thomas-intersectional-environmentalist-greens-girl-co/

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