6:29 AM / Tuesday April 13, 2021

12 Apr 2019

A Brave New World

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
April 12, 2019 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Attendees at the conference listening to lead organizer and secretary of  PABJ, Tauhid Chappell. (Photo by Haamza Edwards)

The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists brought a variety of voices to discuss the legalization of cannabis on the medical and social level together for the ‘More Than Green: The Color of Cannabis’ conference.

By Denise Clay

Seated in the lobby of the Quorum in Drexel University’s Science Center, Dewey Thomas of the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities shares just how far we’ve come as a nation in terms of our view of legalized cannabis, or as most people know it, marijuana.

In 1974, Thomas, who works in herbal medicines, tried cannabis for the first time and enjoyed it, but when he saw some of the side effects, effects that were brought on mostly by the War on Drugs, he swore off it for 27 years, he said. 

After working in herbal medicine for years, including a line that was sold at Whole Foods before Amazon bought the franchise, Thomas heard about the beginnings of medical cannabis and the legalization of hemp after decades on the banned substances list.

Dewey Thomas (Photos: Haamza Edwards)

When he was asked to take part in “More Than Green: The Color Of Cannabis”, presented by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, Thomas jumped at the chance to see the possibilities for communities of color of legalized cannabis, especially since prohibition impacted those communities most adversely.

“What is going to happen here is that we’re going to create a system that will benefit our children,” he said. “We’ll have the potential to create entrepreneurs.”

The day-long conference held at Quorum last Saturday allowed participants to ask questions about everything from the stigma that still surrounds the drug, where efforts to legalize cannabis for both medical and adult use stand in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and how African Americans, a group that has traditionally found itself on the wrong end of the legalized weed debate, can benefit financially instead.

While a discussion on cannabis isn’t something that one might associate with an organization for journalists like PABJ, it’s an important one for the group to be involved in because of the impact that it’s already made in the Black community, said Manuel McDonnell Smith, PABJ president.

“There are different facets of the discussion that we wanted to look at,” he said. “As we look at the medical cannabis space, there aren’t a lot of Blacks in it, and we didn’t want Black people to be left out of this discussion. We also wanted to start having conversations so that we could get rid of some of the stigma surrounding cannabis. There are a lot of people in pain out there that don’t have to be because of that stigma. It’s time for us as a community to have those conversations so that they can get treatment.”

Tauhid Chappell

The movement that sparked this current conversation — a conversation that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has pledged to have in all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties — has been brewing since 2007, said Tauhid Chappell, PABJ secretary and organizer for the conference. After hearing from cannabis advocates around the country and going to activities like the National Cannabis Festival, Chappell, who has a medical cannabis license, thought this would be the best way to educate, he said.

“People are here because they’re curious,” he said. “I’m hoping that what they learn here will make them more curious and become proactive.”

The day started with an overview of what cannabis is, how it’s used medically, how to get into the industry, and how the media has influenced how we see it. 

But no discussion of cannabis would be complete without talking about the policy surrounding it. Like, for example, how you go about getting a medical cannabis license? When he moved to Philadelphia from the Washington, D.C. area, Chappell had to reinvent the paperwork wheel to continue his treatments, he said.

“It’s been really illuminating,” Chappell said. “There’s no reciprocity for licenses here, so I had to go through the process of getting another license. I had to go to Social Security, and then to the [Department of Motor Vehicles]. I had to transfer everything.”

State Rep. Jordan Harris

Mostly, however, people talked about legalization. State Reps. Jordan Harris and Chris Rabb talked about the policy coming out of Harrisburg. During his session, Harris talked about the things that stood in the way of everyone, particularly people of color, getting into the cannabis business. 

“When it comes to getting started, it’s not having a criminal record that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s the high cost to enter; the threshold for ownership.”


While medical cannabis has become the law of the land, getting to adult use in Pennsylvania might take a while, unless New Jersey gives it a little push.

The final session was comprised of New Jersey cannabis activists who came to talk about the state’s recent decision to hold off on legalizing cannabis for adult use. The state has had a medical marijuana law on the books for more than eight years, but it wasn’t implemented until Gov. Phil Murphy was sworn in. 

Should New Jersey vote to approve cannabis for adult use, the game is going to change, said Rabb.

“I think it’ll take four years for [adult use cannabis] passes here because you’d need a Democratic house and senate for that,” Rabb said. “But New Jersey passing a law, it might expedite things.”

“More Than Green: The Color of Cannabis” was sponsored by The Quorum, Greenhouse Ventures, Terrapin Care Station, PhillyCam, Restore Integrated Wellness Center, GVM Communications, Black Dragon Breakfast Club, Smokin’ Hot Solutions, Beyond/Hello, Medically Jointed, and Archer, Attorneys At Law.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News

Color Of Money

The Business Corner: Nbeauty hair salon continues to grow during the pandemic

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email By Teresa Lundy For this edition of The Business Corner, I interviewed Naeemah...

Go With The-Flo

Tsebiyah Derry is slaying music streaming platforms with her new love ballad, “Coastline”

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Tsebiyah Derry By Florence Anthony According to reports, fans of DMX’s...


Be a stroke hero – how to identify the signs of stroke and why you should act fast

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT The sudden onset of stroke symptoms can happen to anyone at any...


Details from more than 500 million Facebook users found available on a website for hackers

April 4, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email NEW YORK (AP) — Details from more than 500 million Facebook users have...


Alawfultruth: The caste system within

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email In the United States, Black and brown people are usually placed into the...


SUNscopes for the week of April 11, 2021

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email All Signs: This week the Sun and Mercury are dancing with lucky moneybags...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff