Recently more than 50 Black community leaders, clergy, activists, business leaders, elected officials, and cannabis industry representatives came together at the historic Watts Labor Community Action Committee to be educated, discuss and engage each other about the potentially positive impact of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64). The convening of Black leaders from throughout the state focused on three main points of the proposition: sentencing reform, community investment and business development.

The convening opened with Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), sharing the organization’s analysis of the War on Drugs. IBW believes that it is apparent that the War on Drugs is a war on Black people. It has devastated the Black community and created “America’s dark ghettos.” Black leaders were asked to commit themselves to ending the war on drugs and repairing the damage wrought on our communities, and to view Prop. 64 as a major step in the endeavor. A statement of support from Danny Bakewell Sr. of the Bakewell Company was shared with participants.

Cat Packer, campaign coordinator for Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform, shared her personal story about the impact of the drug war and her motivation to fight this cause. Her commanding presentation of the elements of Prop. 64 was followed by a frank discussion about AUMA. Cat did a masterful job of listening and responding to the issues and concerns.

Cat’s presentation was followed by powerful panel discussions. Dorsey Nunn from All of Us or None raised the question, “What about Pookie?” He challenged the attendees to embrace our sisters and brothers who may have made poor choices, and recognize their ability to make meaningful contributions to society. Oakland Councilwoman Delsey Brooks discussed how she developed and fought for fairness and equity in the medical marijuana licensing process to ensure that Black people and the formerly incarcerated have serious roles in the industry.

The day ended with a strong contribution from members of the clergy, Rev. Ryder Paysinger (Peace Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Men’s Group Ministry Leader), Pastor Troy Vaughn, (Inglewood Community Church), Pastor Bernard Williams (Hamilton United Methodist Church), and Rev. William Smart (Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Southern California).

The faith leaders provided their perspective on the church being a part of the front line for re-entry, and opening the church doors more regularly to provide an ongoing support network for our people. Rev. Smart passionately discussed how the Black church has historically led many of the social justice movements that secured many of the rights we have today.

There was a strong emphasis and calls for involvement in implementation and monitoring. The need to support Black cannabis operators in Los Angeles to ensure equity was clear. Other points included: the concept of a cooperative cannabis enterprise owned by formerly incarcerated persons, tax credits and gap funding to assist with support for Black-owned cannabis businesses.

Next Steps:

• Establish a justice collaborative advisory council to assist with outreach and continued planning and development.

• Series of town hall meetings/forums with faith leaders.

• Forum convened by Los Angeles Policy Roundtable.

• Town hall meetings/forums in Oakland and San Diego.

• Conversation with Councilwoman Delsey Brooks with cannabis industry representatives, Black business and professional leaders, selected elected officials and advocates hosted by Danny Bakewell Sr.

• Op-Eds in Black weeklies and other publications by prominent Black leaders.

A “yes” vote supports legalizing recreational marijuana and hemp under state law and establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes.

A “no” vote opposes this proposal legalizing recreational marijuana and hemp under state law and establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes.