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Photography by Claudio Schwarz

Conscious of the need to take responsibility for addressing hundreds of years of racial injustice, and recognizing the many links between cannabis prohibition, direct repression of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and institutionalized racism in this country, four Vermont cannabis businesses – Heady Vermont, Meristem Farms, CannaBotanicals, the Vermont Cannabis Nurses Association and NurseGrown Organics have launched a GoFundMe campaign intended to meet both the immediate need to get people out of jail and support long term systemic change through advocacy and education.

“As white business owners and members of the Cannabis community, it is important for us to recognize our privilege in being able to work legally with the cannabis plant. The hypocrisy and racial injustice that white society has inflicted on people of color in our industry for many decades still continues even today,” says Jennifer Daniels, co-owner of Meristem Farms. 

“Too many people of color have been villainized, arrested, and incarcerated because of cannabis,” says Jessilyn Dolan, founder of the Vermont Cannabis Nurses Association and Co-owner of NurseGrown Organics. “Too many families and communities have been torn apart because of prohibition. This fundraiser,” says Dolan, “is one very small step in healing a huge injustice.”

Stephanie Boucher, owner of CannaBotanicals agrees, noting that, “the Cannabis industry is overwhelmingly white, with only only 4.2 % of cannabis businesses being black-owned. Meanwhile, blacks are 400% more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession, and in some places up to 850% more likely. These numbers are not accidental,” adds Boucher, “and it’s up to us to challenge the ways that cannabis has been and is currently used as a weapon of oppression instead of a tool of liberation.”

Proceeds from the fundraising campaign will go directly to The Bail Project, which combats mass incarceration by paying bail to get low income individuals out of jail. Donations are tax-deductible. The next campaign will benefit Justice for All, a nonprofit that helps address long term systemic change through advocacy and education.

“We invite all white-identified Vermonters, New Englanders and beyond working in, profiting from, or enjoying the benefits of the legal Vermont cannabis and hemp industry, to help us reach our minimum goal of $10,000,” says Heady Vermont CEO Monica Donovan. 

“We want to acknowledge that fundraising for these organizations is a small piece of a large, complex, long-term process,” says Donovan, “and does not obviate the need for ongoing personal education, interpersonal dialogue, and working to dismantle inherently racist systems which bolster white economic, political, and cultural supremacy.”

Donations can be made at GoFundMe. Once the campaign goal of $10,000 has been met, the group plans to launch the next campaign, which will raise proceeds for Justice for All. This Vermont-based nonprofit pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system and beyond through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.

For more educational resources and opportunities for action, visit Heady Vermont.com’s Anti-Racism Resources Page.