A Social Justice Conversation: Highlights from Cannabis, Creativity and Criminalization

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Culture, Homepage Featured | 0 comments

On March 22, oHHo presented a conversation titled Cannabis, Creativity and Criminalization. The event featured a collection of strong femme voices in cannabis, art, abolition and social justice, who united in support of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA). Solonje Burnett of Humble Bloom moderated the conversation which featured the unique viewpoints of artist Sage Adams, WPA Director Rebecca Pak, WPA resident artist Annette Washington, and Co-Founder of National Bail Out Arissa Hall.

Why is this conversation so important?

As a brand operating in the CBD space, oHHo knows the importance of raising awareness of the negative side of the cannabis. Specifically its contribution to incarcerations and increases in the prison system.

Solonje opened the conversation with staggering statistics about incarcerations and the impact on women:

  • Nationally, there are more than 8x more women incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails than there were in 1980
  • 60% of women in US prisons have a child that is under the age of 18
  • The rate of imprisonment for African American women has been declining, but they are still almost 2x the rate of white women; LatinX women are imprisoned at 1.3x the rate of white women
  • Black women represent 30% of all incarcerated women across the United States
  • Women are disproportionately affected by punitive drug policies – nearly 30% of all women in prison are there for drug-related charges, compared to 19% of men
What does the WPA do?

The WPA empowers women to redefine their lives in the face of injustice and incarceration. The association forges pathways toward freedom, safety and independence. Their innovative alternative to incarceration (ATI) model allows women to return to, or stay in, their communities rather than serving time in jail or prison. The ATI team works with participants to enhance stability and overall well-being by addressing specific needs that may have contributed to their systems involvement. Learn more here.

The association’s director, Rebecca Pak, gave great insight into how this partnership is helpful and how other brands can contribute:

“With the rise of legal cannabis businesses, we are really grateful to brands like oHHo and other cannabis and CBD businesses who are asking the important question: Who and what group of people are disproportionately harmed by this failed/successful war on drugs? How do we ensure that those harmed individuals and communities are given the space that they earned and deserve to be successful?”

What were some highlights?

With five strong voices, there are many incredible soundbites. Each woman brought her personal background to the conversation, presented thoughtful and authentic comments about the system, and shared ideas for improvement. Many shared painful and eye-opening stories, which are hard to hear, but are so critical for us to all be aware of. To watch the whole conversation (1 hour) please click here.

Some top moments and quotes include:

  • Rebecca Pak sharing why the WPA is so important to her – “Our policies and systems should always look after the people that have the least advantages.” Listen from minutes 20 – 24 to hear her words about the WPA’s mission!
  • Arissa Hall about how we can find true reform – “We need more imagination. We need more creativity. We need more space to imagine and dream and conjure up a world that is grounded in care and love and community. Imagine new ways to be with each other without creating more and unnecessary harm. That is how we are going to transform it.  We can knock down police stations all day long and then if we are still acting like the police, what does that mean?”
  • Annette Washington on finding creativity – “My imagination is something else, I see beauty in everything.  Even in people.  Everyone needs to take a deep breath and think about what they’re mad about, why do you hate me for the color of my skin, why do you want to keep your feet on my neck. Put yourself in my place for a week and see if you can go through what we went through. As a black person there’s crime written on our forehead and our back. But we are a beautiful people regardless of what color our skin is, we are very, how can I say, exotic!”
  • Sage Adams on selecting the right projects – “This year all the projects that I’m doing, I‘m trying to pivot away from what some reference as ‘activist influencer’ space, as that takes up a lot of space. It is really hard to find meaningful partnerships. Typically there are not people trying to monetarily enrich your community in any way, it is people trying to sell some sort of product, etc. I liked the idea that this is actually going to benefit someone – that’s what all of my partnerships this year have been about.”
How can you help?

A key takeaway from this conversation is shedding light on the web of criminalization. Arissa Hall shares a heartbreaking and eye-opening description of how people are unfairly criminalized from minutes 38:30 – 42. When we think of criminalization, most people think of a brick and mortar jail, but it extends far past the walls of prison. Criminalization is everywhere in our communities – in the probation system, the school system, the foster system and beyond. All are interconnected. What is most important is to think beyond the buildings of the jails and prisons and think about people criminalizing people.

To help specifically with this initiative, you can bring home a limited edition piece from oHHo, featuring the gorgeous artwork from the featured artists – Sage A., Karen T., Anjelita R., Diana W., Annette W., Jo R., and Derek A. Through sales of these special items, oHHo will donate a percentage of proceeds with the goal of raising $20,000 for the WPA.

At a larger level, please follow the WPA on Instagram @wpa_nyc. They are hoping to get to the 10k follower mark so that they can apply to be verified and feature “swipe to donate” options and more. One click to follow can do so much! Also join the mailing list for the WPA and get involved with their different platforms where they share stories of real women who have been impacted. And last but not least, make a donation to the WPA. Every act of support helps!