American civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton is speaking up about cannabis. Sharpton, who leads the Harlem-based National Action Network will give a speech this coming Friday at the Cannabis World Congress Business Expo in midtown Manhattan, where the African-American leader will call for increased diversity in the legal weed industry and an end to racially biased policing.
According to the Huffington Post, Sharpton doesn’t use cannabis himself, but that won’t stop him from calling out America’s white-dominated marijuana market.
“Just because I don’t use marijuana as a Minister, does not mean I have the right to impose my moral values on others,” Sharpton said in statement sent to the Huffington Post. “However, I will challenge the cannabis industry and its distributors in states where it is legal to support civil rights movements and ensure that we are not disproportionately excluded from business opportunities.”
While there are up to date national statistics about America’s legal weed industry, an incredibly in-depth report from Buzzfeed in 2016 found that “fewer than three dozen of the 3,200 to 3,600 storefront marijuana dispensaries in the United States are owned by black people — about 1%.”
The cannabis expo will feature booths and speakers focused mostly on the business of cannabis, but the event’s organizers are excited to bring Sharpton’s knowledge and expertise to the longstanding issue of racial inequality in American cannabis.
“Decriminalization and diversity are hot buttons for this industry, and there is a low percentage of canna-businesses owned by people of color,” Scott Giannotti, Managing Director, CWCB Expo Events, said in an email to the Huffington Post. “To have one of the nation’s most prominent voices speak on this topic at CWCBExpo is an extreme honor. This is a turning point for the industry and we are proud to have Rev. Sharpton inspire real action forward.”