A queer black female cannabis chef’s open letter to the cannabis industry.

Originally Published on June 30, 2020 on Medium.com

To whom it may concern:

As a black woman born in America, cooking with cannabis is an act of reclaiming the traditions of medicinal cooking. A sacred tradition that I imagine my ancestors before me practiced and mastered to care for themselves and many others when sickness and pain came about. In my work, I am seeking answers, a connection, an honest meaning in my purpose. We taught our colonizers how to use plant medicine. In return, it was abused for profit against us. My grandmother — my mother’s mom — harvested and processed tobacco in her 20’s — 30’s in Maryland (Eastern Shore). It is a mere parallel to my chosen career path, landing me to also work with medicinal plants.

What started as hope soon became a real manifesto of power. I’ve found my purpose in giving people their power back by reclaiming the human experience through food and cannabis. I merely tapped into my lineage of healers by healing others with cannabis.

There was a moment when I realized that I could be a better drug dealer. This epiphany came to me somewhere between expunging the six cannabis-related charges I was facing and deciding that legal cannabis was going to be my future. I embarked on an Oregon Trail journey with starry eyes for the promise of green gold, relocating to Portland, OR. from Baltimore, MD. with my non-binary partner and son in tow for the sole sake of entering the legal cannabis industry.

I’m the first in my family to leave our east coast surroundings to reside on a completely different coast. It was not easy adjusting to the changes and being confronted with unforeseen challenges of entering this developing legal cannabis industry. When I landed my first job as a cannabis confectionery production assistant in the industry it was with one of the largest cannabis corporations in Oregon — Chalice Farms LLC. My goal was to learn as much as I could about the science of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.

In 2016 I was the very first black woman hired by the company since the company had been established in 2014. I was the only female brown face in the space making me hyper-visual. Being black and female in the workplace means balancing your own emotions with the perceptions and intentions of others, while making everyone feel comfortable, instead of apprehensive, in the process. In 2017 after talks of a $15 million merger with a Canadian cannabis investment company, it was decided that I was no longer a “good fit” and disposed of. They kept my processes and recipes but didn’t keep me. The whole thing was reminiscent of something taken from the movie Hidden Figures.

For black women in the workforce, race inevitably defines the experiences of who we are at work because it’s how society identifies us when we step outside our doors. We learn early that to survive, you internalize the “you have to be twice as good, to be half as good as our peers” narrative. When we fail it is