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The Criminalization of Cannabis a Research Paper by Israa Mustafa, Diversity and Medical Cannabis Intern

As a physician-founded, science-focused cannabis company, Vireo Health is committed to furthering the medical understanding and acceptance of cannabis as a safer, less-addictive alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, such as deadly opioids.

Vireo is also committed to promoting and protecting diversity and inclusion within our company, our industry, and our local communities. We are proud to be one of the most diverse cannabis companies in the country, with over 65% of our workforce identifying as a woman or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

As part of our dual commitment to medical research and diversity, Vireo started a Medical Cannabis Diversity Internship Program to provide opportunities for BIPOC candidates who are studying in a related field and interested in joining the cannabis industry.  Last year, we hired our first intern in the program, Israa Mustafa. Israa was an amazing intern and is currently studying at Yale University. You can read her full profile here.

If you are interested, or know a qualified candidate who might be interested, in applying for the internship, you can learn more here.

As part of her internship, Israa wrote a research paper titled, The Racialization and Criminalization of Cannabis Use in Black and non-white Latinx Communities and Pathways to Restorative Justice and Health Equity. Israa’s paper was submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Stay tuned for more details on the publication later this year!

Here is an excerpt from the paper’s abstract:

“For the past century, cannabis use has been recognized by the U.S. government as a highly abused and psychoactive drug with few medical benefits. However, this hostile treatment of cannabis has not always been the case. Historically, in the U.S. and other civilizations cannabis has been used recreationally, spiritually, and medically. This article highlights how the popularization of cannabis in brown and black cultures, along with growing unrest in white societies, induced the criminalized and feared stigma surrounding cannabis.”

The in-depth, highly researched paper discusses the history of cannabis and how and why it was made illegal. It also provides a compelling look at the failed “War on Drugs” and how it is racially motivated and unfairly impacts communities of color.

The paper also focuses on health equity and other policy recommendations to counteract the so-called “War on Drugs”. As a physician-led medical cannabis company, Vireo supports health equity in the cannabis sphere and in all discussions and programming aimed at promoting social justice, diversity, and inclusion.

The paper traces the history of the politicization of cannabis prohibition from its roots in the early 1900s, starting with special interest lobbying and propaganda campaigns, to the passing of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, the 1967 Controlled Substances Act, and the Regan Administration’s enhanced focus on the “War on Drugs”.

Check out this timeline infographic that details the history of cannabis prohibition.

The paper then details the extremely disproportional impact that cannabis prohibition and the “War on Drugs” continues to have on communities of color.

Did you know that Black folk are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis than their white counterparts? Or that on average, Black people receive 50% longer jail sentences then Whites for cannabis-related charges? These are just a few of the many eye-opening stats revealed in Israa’s paper.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about these injustices.

Vireo is extremely proud of Israa’s work and we look forward to seeing it published in a peer-reviewed journal later this year. We hope her story and her research paper help others to not only realize the injustices of cannabis prohibition, but to get involved in the industry and help promote equity and inclusion.

Thank you Israa and thank you to everyone fighting for social justice in the cannabis industry and beyond!

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