In a speech which called out the hypocrisy and racial inequality of the cannabis business, Reverend Al Sharpton called medical marijuana a “civil right.”
Sharpton spoke Thursday at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition in Boston.
“Who would think that we are in the 21st century debating about whether we are going to cover healthcare for people and debating about whether we’re going to let people who are suffering use medical marijuana?” he asked his audience.
“It should be a civil right for people to maintain and enhance their health,” Sharpton added.
The event is not the reverend’s only recent cannabis-related speaking engagement. He also spoke at the CWCB Expo in Los Angeles during the summer. But, unlike most celebrities in the weed world, Sharpton is not a heavy cannabis user. He just believes in the rights of patients.
When discussing his cannabis credentials, Sharpton said, “I’m for same-sex marriage and I’m not gay. People have a right to do things I’m not engaged in.”
But the rights of patients aren’t the only things bothering the reverend about the marijuana industry. The other is a lack of equality for black cannabis professionals and users.
Sharpton said that, “as this industry builds, it should be inclusive. Blacks cannot be the ones that go to jail and others to the bank.”
Many states with legal marijuana programs have stipulations against people with past drug convictions obtaining licenses to run cannabis businesses. Since black people are four times as likely to be arrested for weed than white people, these stipulations might effectively keep black people out of the cannabis industry.
“The critical difference between the people who have been fundamental to this industry and the people who have been excluded is that they got caught,” John Kagia, who heard Sharpton speak at CWCB Los Angeles told The Milford Daily News. Kagia is executive vice president of industry analytics at New Frontier Data, a firm which specializes in the cannabis industry.
Sharpton’s words could be a powerful force for change in cannabis regulation, advocating not for cannabis, but for the rights of people affected by cannabis.
“I will never tell you how to grow marijuana, I don’t know how to do that,” Sharpton told the crowd on Thursday. “But I know how to agitate.”
Photo via Flickr user AFGE