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By Amanda Reiman

For those of us who cut our teeth on marijuana advocacy and remember days of hiding from cops as we attempted to celebrate events like 4/20, marijuana business almost seems like an oxymoron.

For many, cannabis represents a sort of anti-establishment movement, where people who hate suits and ties fight for causes long abandoned by the status quo. Racial, environmental and social justice themes permeate marijuana culture.

Now, the door to legitimacy is opening, and activities once relegated to street corners and hidden spots has been brought front and center in the name of American capitalism.

But are these worlds mutually exclusive? Or can the mainstreaming of marijuana provide a bigger, more well-funded platform for social change than we ever imagined?

Recently in San Francisco, the International Cannabis Business Conference invited these worlds to collide with the hopes of creating something unrealized in the history of America: an industry that specifically fuels social change.

While the tech industry may have assisted in the development of new processes, it was not born with the intent of repairing social injustice and environmental degradation. Indeed, the war on drugs has caused immeasurable harms to vulnerable communities and land in America, and as the marijuana green rush grows, we must not forget how we got here.

This was the theme of the ICBC. Speakers such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, and I stressed the importance of pushing through the propaganda, supporting advocacy efforts and being mindful of what this industry can and will accomplish. While other cannabis business conferences have focused solely on the formation of business and the securing of capital, this conference maintained a focus on the damage caused by marijuana prohibition, and how the newly legal market can act as philanthropic commerce, lifting up oppressed communities and providing real opportunity.

Some of the suggestions made included apprenticeship programs for those with marijuana related criminal justice issues and using revenue from marijuana businesses to help clean up environmental damage from trespass growing.

People getting involved today need to understand that they are entering more than just the next great American industry. They are charged with perpetuating a legacy of rising up, questioning the status quo and advocating on behalf of those unfairly marginalized by the system.

Yes, there is a lot of money to be made, and yes, the end of marijuana prohibition will result in a boom for the American economy. But, as was stressed at the ICBC, if legalization does not lift up those most impacted by prohibition, we risk replacing one oppressive system with another.

Amanda Reiman is the manager for marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Amanda Reiman
Date Published: March 2, 2015
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Via:: Ddrug Policy Alliance