Banners raised over I-35 freeway in response to SXSW keynote speeches by John Boehner and others
Less than a mile from Travis County Jail, where people of color are still disproportionately incarcerated for cannabis possession, multibillion dollar conglomerates that are disproportionately controlled by white men will speak at SXSW about capitalizing the cannabis marketplace.
Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, a documented prohibitionist while in office, gave a SXSW keynote speech on Friday, March 15th. His voting record in Congress (1991-2015) shows that he consistently opposed criminal justice reform, civil rights, LGBTQIA+ protections, environmental protections, and public education. After 24 years of devastating communities with his policies, John Boehner wants to profit off of cannabis in the wake of the War On Drugs.
MedMen CEO Adam Bierman will also deliver a keynote, entitled “The New Normal.” MedMen faces allegations of wage theft, racism, and homophobia in the workplace, as well as financial improprieties in their pursuit of profit. In spite of being valued at $1.6 BILLION, MedMen has not made any significant commitment to funding equity, justice, or repair in the cannabis industry. This cannot and should not be “The New Normal.”
These two men are not alone. They are merely representative of a larger trend towards racial inequity in the cannabis industry. When understood in the context of a War on Drugs that has disproportionately harmed low-income communities of color for decades, this state of affairs requires community intervention.
In protest of:
- Those profiting off of cannabis without an intentional plan to repair and make whole individuals, families, and communities that have been devastated by the War on Drugs;
- Those profiting off of cannabis who once participated in prohibition;
And those who would profit before freeing all cannabis prisoners and vacating all cannabis convictions
And calling for:
- 10 percent of companies’ annual revenue to be reinvested in communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs;
- A new paradigm of social responsibility in the cannabis industry;
- And public policies that create an equitable, just, and reparative industry.
“It’s hypocritical for an Austin based company like SXSW, a company imbedded in a city that preaches diversity and inclusion, to neglect the work of committing to create an inclusive space, and instead give a keynote platform to John Boehner. This is disgusting,” says Chas Moore, Executive Director of the Austin Justice Coalition.
“Our protest at SXSW sends a bold message in support of cannabis equity, justice, and repair. We stand together, recognizing that by defending the most marginalized among us, we defend all of us. We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities, and we call on all defenders of human rights to join us,” says Felicia Carbajal of the Equity First Alliance and the Los Angeles-based non-profit The Social Impact Center.
“This protest is the first step towards unifying our communities to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until we see equity in cannabis and in all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully, while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all,” says LaTorie Wallace of the Equity First Alliance and Washington, DC-based We BAKED.