What Does it Mean to Be Black in Cannabis?

Written by our General Manager, Torrance

My name is Torrance, and I am the General Manager at Purple Lotus in San Jose, California.

Known for our extensive cannabis selection, quality, and service to our customers and community for over 10 years, I am truly proud of the work we do.

I’ve been with Purple Lotus for about 5 months, stamping my breakthrough into the industry in less than one year. Cannabis has been an important part of my life for as far back as I can remember.

For a lot of people in my community, it was one of the only sources of income to provide food for the family. It was the antidote that soothed the realities of our economic disparities and mental health-related to stress, loss, and trauma. It’s my balance. A modern-day love affair, cannabis has never felt more serendipitous to come (or stay) home with.

With our current “norm” feeling more compact in 2021, how great is it to look back a bit on the climate of the cannabis industry within the last year? More importantly, the effect upon black men and women, and more specifically, their voices within the cannabis community.

We all know that 2020 left us winded with COVID-19 and political fatigue but also revealed to us the blaring discourse between racial equality and the police. But as we highlighted in our recent The History of Cannabis article, racial profiling amongst Black Americans as it relates to cannabis is deeply embedded in our country.

The Black Experience in Cannabis

Ten years ago, when I was 21, I had a costly run in with law enforcement.

I received a phone call from a White ex-partner that needed help with a flat tire, located in a suburban neighborhood with a population of less than 1% Black people.

When I arrived, I realized we needed a professional, so we decided to call for a tow truck. It was winter, so we sat in my car to stay warm while waiting for the tow service. After a few minutes of waiting, I noticed flashing lights in the rearview mirror that wasn’t the tow truck – but a cop instead.

Now here I go, in this upscale neighborhood with a white woman as my passenger, parked in a shiny red Monte Carlo, skin just as Black as can be. I knew the odds were against me.

When the cop approached the car, he tapped on the window and asked if everything was OK. I responded as he made direct eye contact with my partner, claiming that he observed her get into my vehicle. After explaining that we were waiting for a tow truck, he requested my license and registration.

He then asked that I step out of the vehicle so he can run a record search. I did not hesitate and followed all of his orders including putting my hands on the trunk of the car until he got out of his vehicle.

He came back a couple of minutes later and stated that everything came back clear in his record search but was curious to know if I had any drugs or weapons in the car. I responded with a no, but he insisted on searching and said, “Well then you don’t mind if I search the car”.

Not wanting to escalate the situation, I gave consent to search. It only took about five minutes before he approached me with some ashes and leftover Black and Mild tips in the ashtray console of the car.

He pulled out a pen from his shirt pocket and dug through the ashes until he came across an old cannabis doobie. He looked at me with this look of excitement, and asked, “Is this an illegal substance?” I couldn’t believe it.

I knew I had messed up and was completely aware that I would be held accountable to some extent, especially when the K-9 and two other patrol cars arrived. The arresting officer informed me that I was under arrest for possession while operating a vehicle.

Not only was this on my record for the next several years, but I also lost my job. Additionally, my driver’s license was suspended, I spent a day in a city jail, paid thousands of dollars in court fees, and was turned down from several job opportunities due to failing background checks.

Turning a Negative into a Positive

It’s crazy to think that the harsh lessons I’ve learned – albeit back when I demonstrated a relentless and carefree attitude – are proving to work in my favor today.

I was able to use those experiences as a foundation for educating myself on the law, history, and health benefits of cannabis. And now, here I am. A leader in cannabis.

While I take full accountability for the events that transpired when I was a young adult, I now understand that everything has happened exactly the way that the system intended. I was determined to use my voice in my community throughout the cannabis industry by sharing my experience.

The lessons I’ve learned by applying knowledge through education, community outreach, and employee resources could benefit my community and generations to come.

Being Black in Cannabis Today

Every day I get to lead an amazing team of people from different walks of life and experiences with cannabis!

Mix this with the pleasure of serving a loyal community, welcoming hundreds of new people a day, and smoking some of the best marijuana ‘Cali’ has to offer, the recipe for success is obvious.

I am being exposed to every critical component for operating a successful cannabis company, thanks to our founder, Matt. I am responsible for maintaining compliance, operations, marketing and finance, service, and personnel.

The skills necessary for managing an organization of this caliber aren’t something I learned from a book in college or working at a few hotels. Real-life experiences brought me here and it’s those experiences that have kept me grounded, focused, and resilient.

I come with over 12 years of experience in the hospitality industry, holding executive-level roles, managing properties across the continental U.S. and Hawaii. However, it’s still crazy to think that in the last 5 months, this opportunity is already proving to be most fulfilling.

How Purple Lotus is supporting Black Americans in Cannabis

Purple Lotus in San Jose, California is committed to supporting Black and Minority-owned cannabis brands.

It has been our pleasure to support Greenpeakz, a Black-owned luxury cannabis company based in Oakland, California. This support and mentorship for growth in Minority-owned cannabis companies allow us to develop a valuable relationship with these communities.

As we hope to expand, we have taken calculated steps on how we can give back to equitable causes by creating jobs and opportunities across Northern California. This effort will allow us to not only continue doing what we love but share that passion with those looking for a breakthrough into the industry.

Lastly, our commitment to social equity and diversity in cannabis could not be fulfilled without addressing the root causes of racism in the industry.

Partnering with Plus Gummies, we strive to give back to the community and undo the injustices created in cannabis by donating a portion of sales made to The Last Prisoner Project.

No time is greater than now to undo the wrongs created by an unjust system. As we continue to reap the benefits of cannabis and its ever-expansive industry, let us not forget those who have lost a valuable portion of their lives for doing the same thing.

Support our youth and invest in their education, healthcare, and future. Do not let the distractions around you keep you from standing up for what YOU believe in.

Speak with confidence and conviction and keep fighting for equality and equity in cannabis.

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