The cannabis industry has become a booming industry since its legalization in over 30 states and with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s only gotten bigger. Unfortunately for Bernard Noble, he sat in a Louisiana jail riding out a 13-year jail sentence for possession of 2.8 grams of cannabis, while marijuana legalization and decriminalization swept through the nation. With zero chance of parole under Louisiana’s “habitual offender” law– he had marijuana and cocaine prior– Noble became a symbol for the movement to reform discriminatory drug laws.
The legal marijuana industry now accounts for 321,00 full-time jobs across the 37 states with legal medical and recreational use markets according to Leafly’s 2020 job report. Last year, when much of the country was still bemused from Covid, the marijuana industry added 77,300 jobs, with U.S. sales hitting $18.3 billion. The result is a 32% increase in year-over-year growth– creating jobs at a faster rate than any other industry in the United States.
For most African-Americans, who are close to four times as likely to be incarcerated for cannabis charges as white people, the prospect of generating wealth through the marijuana industry is out of reach. The irony of Noble’s case caught the attention of the filmmaker Fred Brathwaite, also known as the former Yo! MTV Raps host Fab 5, Freddy. When Noble was released in 2018 after serving seven years of his sentence, Brathwaite approached him with a business proposal. Brathwaite says, “We’re taking 10% of the proceeds and donating to organizations working to expunge records and train people to be part of the business.”
He concluded, “Plus we’re providing high-quality cannabis.” The two entered into a 50/50 partnership with Curaleaf, a cannabis production company, to develop B Noble, a two-joint pre-roll pack. The B Noble pack is a symbol of the two joints Noble possessed upon being incarcerated in 2010. On August 28, Brathwaite told the audience at the Growing In Cannabis: Seeds Of Change panel that he learned a lot about racism in the marijuana industry while filming his documentary Grass is Greener.
He said, “The people that pioneered it as a business in many urban communities are prevented from taking part in the business, and that’s unfair.” While marijuana may be legal and people are finally able to make a living off of it, social equity and equality have to be at the forefront of all of this change.