Rev. Al Sharpton understands that fighting for marijuana legalization isn’t about “getting high” – it’s about economic freedom, diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity, and exercising your right to vote.
On Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton provided an informative keynote address at the 4th Annual Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) held in Los Angeles. While the Rev. personally rejects the use of such earthly pleasures as cannabis, his message embraced the importance of marijuana decriminalization, addressing the existing civil rights issues within the fast-growing industry and motivating those passionate about legalization to participate in the 2018-midterm elections.
Decriminalization: Sharpton speaks up at the CWCBExpo
Preaching to the long-maligned choir at the CWCBExpo, Sharpton first hit on the hot topic of decriminalization.
“It is in the self-interest of all Americans to stop this criminalization pathos that has put people in jail and have ruined their lives with records. For no real effect on society that is negative and no real scientific or medical affect that is detrimental to them. This whole question of supporting the criminal justice system, and really the prison industrial complex, at the expense of people, because they had some marijuana in their pocket, needs to stop and needs to not in any way be continued by this new administration.”
Hey Rev., what about medical marijuana?
Outspoken and occasionally polarizing, Rev. Sharpton is the founder and President of the Brooklyn-based National Action Network (NAN). Acknowledged by Pres. Barack Obama as “the voice of the voiceless,” Sharpton’s nonprofit civil rights organization has an extensive network with over 45 chapters from coast-to-coast.
A relatively new face in the marijuana industry but not in politics, Sharpton explained his position on medical marijuana.
“There are those that would say, well, Rev. you are not only a civil rights leader of an organization you’re a minister, and you’re telling people to smoke marijuana. No, I’m telling people first of all that have medical needs, that they should not have to choose between an archaic law and their health. That’s one. There are many things that pharmaceutical companies sell that have been detrimental. So I mean, you can’t play the game by different sets of rules. You can’t tell people, go to the drugstore but don’t use cannabis that is proven to be healthy, and in some cases necessary for your health. But the other part of that is I’m not telling people, even on a recreational level, what to smoke – but I’m telling them they ought not be criminalized for doing that.”
The marijuana industry and equal opportunity
A civil rights proponent for over 40 years, Rev. Sharpton has witnessed up close and personal the carnage heaped upon America’s minority communities by the war on drugs.
Nipping further inequality in the bud: Rev. Al is painfully aware there are plenty of African-American pot smokers in the United States (and more than a few are prisoners), but are woefully underrepresented in the burgeoning marijuana industry – approximately 1%.
And Rev. Al wants to change that.
“As we have seen 23 states now make legal marijuana something that passes state law, that in and of itself is threatened with this new administration. At the same time, we must have an inclusion in the industry to make sure that those communities that have been impacted also have a roadmap towards participation and ownership in dispensaries and others in the industry.”
The Rev. put a pin in that very important point by concluding – “We cannot have an industry where blacks go to jail and whites go to the bank.”
Stand, vote, and smoke … or sit and suffer
Rhetorically on point, Rev. Sharpton’s sermon on the importance of cannabis decriminalization and voter participation in the 2018-midterm elections was best summarized when Sharpton noted, “We don’t need a moment, we need a movement, and `18 can define the industry and it can define the public policy at the same time. The future of this industry, the future of the cannabis industry, will be determined next year. If we cannot put the pressure on state legislators next year, you are going to have it almost impossible to extremely difficult to pick it up in `20 or in `22. Next year is vital because it is right at the cross where we went out of the age of picking up momentum on legalizing – to where you now have an attorney general who is saying let’s reverse that. And sooner or later they will put a case in court and run it all the way up to the Supreme Court, and a lot of you will find yourselves out of business.”
An ordained minister since the age of 10, Reverend Al Sharpton Jr. has been taught empathy, compassion, and how to recognize the face of evil when confronted by it.
“You do not avoid a problem when you have the problem, you avoid it before it becomes a problem – and `18 is the year to do this,” Sharpton concluded.