Chocolate Industry

New episode of South Park takes aim at inequality in the cannabis industry

Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t limit their interest in state affairs to the resurrection of Casa Bonita. As Governor Jared Polis noted just before the creators of South Park announced the long-running deal in August, the two hometown heroes were set to kick off the Comedy Central show’s 25th season.

And episode two of the short story South Park season, which aired Feb. 9, tears up the issue of racial inequality in Colorado’s cannabis industry. “The Big Fix” begins in Denver, where the Colorado Convention Center is hosting the 2022 Cannabis Growers Expo.

A panelist at an event called “Changing Face of Hemp Farming” issues an ultimatum to the largely white crowd: “We growers have to face a harsh reality. Since the legalization of marijuana, communities in color – the black and brown Coloradans, the most affected by the racist war on drugs – have now been excluded from the industry’s wealth creation. Fortunately, the public is beginning to understand this injustice. And many people are now talking about boycott white-owned cannabis growers. We are seeing a healthy and dramatic increase in the number of consumers who are demanding that their marijuana be grown by those who understand the fight for social equity. The bottom line is the following: A completely white-owned weed company these days is just not going to survive.”

While Colorado has long been a cannabis pioneer, a role that culminated in late 2012 when state voters passed Amendment 64 and legalized recreational marijuana, the state failed. on the equity front.

“Amendment 64 was about social exclusion, not social equity, which is inclusion,” says John Bailey, head of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative. “What they did was they said who couldn’t participate. People who had criminal records couldn’t participate. Right away you excluded people who had been most affected by the war on drugs.”

“If you had past cannabis convictions, you wouldn’t be able to participate for ten years,” adds Sarah Woodson, founder of advocacy organization Color of Cannabis, noting that it largely affected black and brown men. “The guy who was selling you weed, he wasn’t able to do that anymore, legally.”

Colorado’s cannabis industry has remained predominantly white for years. The Marijuana Enforcement Division’s 2021 demographic study, released in September, showed that 83.7% of licensees are white, while 7.7% are Latino and 2.9% are black.

“They’re drinking from a well they didn’t dig,” Bailey says of the predominantly white industry. “They didn’t go to jail. They weren’t disrupted. They didn’t have to pay significant fines.”

For years, Bailey, Woodson and other advocates have pushed for social equity policies in both the city of Denver and the state of Colorado.

On April 20, 2021, Mayor Michael Hancock signed into law Denver’s Social Equity Agenda, which began accepting licenses in June. He used a definition of social equity created by the Colorado legislature which passed a bill last year creating the Cannabis Business Office, which established a series of grants, low-interest loans and technical assistance programs for marijuana business owners who qualify under the state. marijuana social equity provision.

Still, Woodson considers the qualifications for Colorado’s social equity program too loose, because a person need only prove that they or their family have been arrested on certain drug charges, that they earns less than 50% of the state median income or is from a designated community. as an area of ​​low economic opportunity by state officials.

“We’ve created a program that’s supposed to help blacks and browns that really only helps whites qualify,” Woodson said.

On another front in the fight for social equity, Polis pardoned 2,732 past marijuana possession convictions — which disproportionately affected people of color — at the end of 2021.

Back to satire South Park World, the news that there are fairness issues in Colorado’s cannabis industry surprises Randy Marsh, successful pot entrepreneur and owner of weed company Tegridy Farms. And he decides to grow his business by any means necessary.

Randy, who is white, invites the only black family in the town of South Park – the Blacks – to dinner one night at the Marsh Farm and manages to arm Steve Black, the family patriarch who is already a hugely successful executive in a financial advisory firm, to work with him at Tegridy.

Shortly after, as Steve is driving through town, he sees a huge Tegridy Weed billboard with a picture of him next to Randy with a backdrop of pot farms framed under mountains.

“Sales are going crazy right now,” Randy tells Steve, who is upset because he thought he was just doing a little consulting for Randy. But Randy manages to seduce him by stuffing some money in his pocket.

At first, the episode portrays Steve Black’s role in Randy’s business as nothing more than a token hiring of a racial minority.

“It’s already happening. It’s happening in every other legal state, including California,” Bailey says of people who aren’t necessarily eligible for cannabis social equity programs playing with the system.

And when Steve came up with his own idea of ​​using fancy genus names for weed strains, Randy and his other business partner, Towelie, dismissed the idea as silly. “Randy, you don’t seem to care about my ideas,” Steve said.

“You know, you’re just not the idea,” Randy replies, leading Steve to conclude that he was indeed a token hire of a racial minority.

“This disproportion and disparity suggests people aren’t going to voluntarily give up their source of income,” adds Bailey, who notes that he’s not a fan of the show, which “can be confusing at times.”

Soon, Steve Black opens his own cannabis business, right across from Randy’s. This new company, Credigree Weed, is 100% black-owned, the ad points out. And Randy gets incredibly upset that he has a new competition right across the street.

While Steve Black, a racial minority, was able to establish a stake in the cannabis industry in the world of South Parkthat’s rarely the case in Colorado, according to Woodson, who says he loves the show and watches it with his oldest son.

“Social equity is always at the bottom of the totem pole,” she says. “It’s definitely an uphill battle. I think it’s going to take a lot of collective work from everyone.”