Written by: Fame Neal
New York, NY. Let’s get straight to it. White ally-ship is important. It’s necessary. It comes with the expectation that our white counterparts will graciously extend an invitation to some mystical table we formerly did not have access to. But at what cost?
Vic Styles, the creator of Black Girls Smoke, learned the hard way that all allyship aint good allyship and this past Wednesday she took to Social Media to voice her very valid concerns regarding NYC cannabis event brand Medly.
Before we get into that, we first need to clarify that the cannabis industry is not synonymous with the cannabis community. The cannabis industry has a very specific focus: monetary gain. Not to say that individual business entities can’t have a community focus, but by nature market expansion and profitability is the focus. The cannabis community, however, is just that: community focused. Building, networking, and forging conversations about the power and social implications of cannabis. Whereas the cannabis industry is profit-focused, the cannabis community has social impact at the heart of its operations.
As brands begin to blur the line between community impact and profitability, true intentions may fall wayside to the facade of social engagement. With all the blurred lines, who is REALLY out here for us? And who are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” preying on true change-makers for clout?
White faces in Black and Brown Spaces.
It’s no secret that an alarming percentage of the cannabis industry is overtaken by non-people of color (POC) due to historical inaccessibility and impossible cash flow requirements. You can probably count the number of times you’ve walked into a licensed dispensary owned by a person of color. For most of you reading this, that has never happened. New York’s cannabis equity legislation is working to change that by prioritizing applicants of color and legacy growers so that we can see more black and brown faces in colonized spaces.
As such, cannabis equity, cannabis diversity, and cannabis inclusivity are becoming major industry buzzwords. And with the reach high marketing budgets and market research can afford you, the industry “gatekeepers” are jumping on the social impact bandwagon. Personally, I’m weary of any white folk utilizing diversity as a campaign initiative. Just be diverse. Just be inclusive. Just be equitable. As the gate to the cannabis industry widens, supposed thought leaders and business owners alike are forced to realize that they are no longer “the cool kids” on the block. Now—they’re looking for a way to be invited to our tables. However, just like colonizers, they have us believing that it was their table to begin with and that we need them to appear legitimate and valid within the industry.
This was the case with Black Girls Smoke (BGS) and the New York brand Medly. In a heartfelt Instagram LIVE the creator of BGS, Vic Styles, called out the predominantly white-dollar funded cannabis event brand for a number of community infractions including but not limited to: (1) stealing intellectual property and/or threatening to steal intellectual property of POC and Women owned brands (2) outright racism and/or disregard for racism (3) brand bullying and/or manipulation (4) devaluing of black and brown initiatives and contributions to NYC’s cannabis spaces (5) defamation of previous brand partnerships, and the list goes on. We’re currently working to obtain the open letter Styles read aloud which outlined in detail the scope of Medly’s transgressions.
I could describe the letter however the video itself does more justice than I could ever recollect. You can watch the LIVE recording below then jump back into the discussion.
One thing is clear after viewing the open community letter: we sacrifice too much to sit at the tables that weren’t built or designed for us. In an effort to gain approval or acceptance within the cannabis industry we forge partnerships with established businesses who we presume to have our best interest at heart. What we forget is that like most support that comes with terms, conditions and brand activations–it’s all part of their marketing plan. Partnerships with business entities of color are simply a bullet point on their strategic marketing plan.
This experience isn’t exclusive to New York, however. As you can see from many of the comments left, the practice of using Black and Brown faces to access community dollars and build brand awareness is a practice being applied across the U.S. in cannabis spaces and the consumer market in general.
Black Girls Smoke Call to Action(s).
The intent of the community letter wasn’t simply to blow smoke up Medly’s ass but to solicit the cannabis community to properly assess who we choose to work with and at what cost. There’s not enough free weed or brand activations in the world to justify working with inclusivity culture vultures. So under the partial advice of Drake, If you’re reading this: it’s NOT too late. Share this message, cut ties, and watch your back. It’s a cold, cold world out there.
“What is a god given gift and purpose cannot be re-created with evil intentions.”-Vic Styles, Founder of Black Girls Smoke
Social experiences and peace of mind for all.
The events and spaces we feature are (1) Inclusive for BIPOC, (2) LGBTQ Friendly, and (3) Elevating. If you should find an organizer or space on our list that does not meet our travel standards, please send us an email with complete details. Together, we can hold businesses accountable for being better human beings.
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