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Mala Muñoz Is Working to Destigmatize Cannabis Use in Latinx Communities

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“The term marijuanera [is] steeped in this assumption that you’re lazy, you don’t do anything all day, you don’t work,” Muñoz tells Allure. “I may not have a nine-to-five, but I’m working. I’m hustling. I’m active. I meet my listeners in person… and these potheads of mine are engineers and they’re teachers, and they have PhDs, and they’re smoking fat joints while they’re GIS [geographic information system] mapping for their grad school courses. All the rumors are wrong, and you just have to show up to one of our parties to see that.”

Before all this started, though, Muñoz hosted a YouTube docu-series for Mitú in which she interviewed Latinx people in the cannabis industry — bud tenders, growers, union reps — about the history of cannabis, legalization, and the politicization of cannabis as a form of racial control. In the 20th centuries, misconceptions about cannabis were used by lawmakers and legacy politicians like President Richard Nixon as an excuse to increase the policing and deportation of immigrants in Black and Brown communities.

“Historically, Black and Brown communities have been incarcerated at much higher rates than whites for cannabis use,” Muñoz says in the first episode of the docu-series, even though studies have shown that white adults have a higher rate of marijuana use. This, she explains, has caused generations of trauma, stigma, and fear. Still, although the North American weed market is booming — California is currently the largest legal weed market in the world, making $5.2 billion in sales in 2021 — many Latinx smokers, growers, and entrepreneurs are being left out of the industry. As of 2017, less than 6% of people in this industry identified as Latinx despite making up almost 18 percent of the population.

Of course, this doesn’t touch the discrimination and mass incarceration of people in Black and Brown communities since the criminalization of marijuana in 1937, she points out, nor the risk involved for undocumented Latinx farmers who form the backbone of the ever-growing industry. It’s necessary that expungement and social equity programs equalize the playing field, allowing BIPOC communities ample opportunity to be a part of the green rush. “As long as we’re making money from dispensaries that look like Apple stores on the west side, we need to free people from prison,” Muñoz says. Currently, weed is decriminalized in 27 states, but there are still an estimated 40,000 people incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses and perhaps even more with records that have yet to be expunged.

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