Church Hosts Summit About Marijuana’s Impact On Black Community

By Kelly Burch 03/05/19

Industry leaders discussed topics ranging from marijuana's impact on business, to criminal justice, to healthcare at the summit.

Church summit where industry leaders discussed marijuana's impact on black community

As the senior pastor at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, Anthony Trufant is used to preaching about subjects that affect his community. Last week, he discussed the importance of black people and other minorities becoming involved with the soon-to-be legal marijuana industry in New York. 

Trufant was speaking to more than 1,000 people who attended the Business of Cannabis summit held at the church, according to NBC News

"It is a matter of economic justice," said Trufant. "There are opportunities for investment, for employment and for microbusiness. Last but not least, it is a matter of political justice.”

The church organized the cannabis summit to bring together industry leaders to talk about how legal recreational marijuana will affect the black community in areas ranging from business, to criminal justice, to healthcare. 

Trufant spoke about the need for people to have their criminal records expunged of marijuana-related offenses. In New York City, blacks are eight times more likely than whites to face low-level marijuana charges.

The state’s Attorney General Letitia James, the first African-American woman to hold the position, acknowledged this when she said, “This war on drugs has far too long been a war on people of color and a war on poor Americans and that's mostly impacted my brothers, sons, fathers, and my friends.”

In addition, Trufant and industry experts spoke of the importance of minorities being able to access marijuana for medical reasons. 

“We recognize that in a time when there are soaring health care prices, that cannabis is really a matter of protection for people who are suffering from cancer and other ailments,” he said. 

Registered nurse Kebra Smith-Bolden said that people who have grown up in high-stress areas often turn to marijuana to self-medicate for medical conditions that have not been diagnosed. 

“People who grew up in the 'hood, people who saw violence in their lives, they are literally checking off every box [for PTSD symptoms]. People who assume that people are just getting high; they are actually trying to medicate themselves. But they need to learn how to do it properly.”

In addition to benefitting from easier access to marijuana, organizers and presenters at the summit want minorities to be able to enter the cannabis industry and benefit monetarily from legalized cannabis. 

“I hope that today some minds were shifted,” said Gia Morón, executive vice president of Women Grow, an organization that helps women enter the cannabis industry. “I hope today, some questions were answered and I also hope that we have invited more people to join us in this industry, because I would love to be less the minority and I’d love to become the majority.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.