Cannabis Rebranded: The Hypocrisy of Luxury

As you may or may not be aware, the legalization of recreational cannabis is slowly spreading throughout the United States. I’m not sure about elsewhere in the country, but here in California, cannabis is becoming a hot commodity as luxury brands start to incorporate CBD and hemp (the less psychoactive compounds of cannabis) into their products and marketing campaigns. And, because cannabis legalization is a fairly recent development, its commercial marketplace has become a competitive battleground with high-end companies vying for the top spot.

I, for one, am 100% in favor of cannabis legalization and am (somewhat) excited to see the mainstream embracing the medicinal benefits of the often-misunderstood plant; however, I have a bone to pick. Cannabis is the hot new trend in the beauty and wellness industry now, but have we forgotten all the lives that have been unjustly persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed for their involvement with cannabis? To give a quick refresher, the US has spent decades and billions of dollars criminalizing weed, with 659,700 people arrested for cannabis law violation in 2017 (46.9% of which are Black and Latinx, despite making up only 31.5% of the national population). That isn’t to say that some cases aren’t criminally-associated, but that doesn’t negate the disproportionate amount of Black and Brown folks imprisoned for harmless possession charges. You can’t look at these statistics and tell me that the war on drugs isn’t linked with the racial discrimination that this country is unfortunately built upon.

So, while people of color continue to be unjustly targeted, cannabis is being rebranded through the capitalist machine so that luxury companies can profit and consumers can indulge guilt-free. There’s a whole new market on commercially-friendly, cannabis-related technologies and products with luxury price tags, but I don’t see any of these companies advocating for long-term legal reforms on cannabis criminalization. I don’t see any of these companies fighting for the lives who’ve been demonized by our country’s racist drug war. I call bullshit on their sudden endorsement of cannabis. They want to reap all the benefits without facing the real issues at stake. The next time you come across a campaign promoting a “CBD-infused” product, remember that legalization of cannabis does not mean we’ve solved the intricately complex war on drugs. It is only one small part of the equation.

Sidenote: I encourage you to use the term “cannabis” instead of “marijuana”. While it has become commonplace in both colloquial and formal lexicons, “marijuana” as employed in the US-English language has a racist history. It gained traction in the States by anti-drug supporters who used the originally Spanish word in order to stigmatize and criminalize cannabis based on how “exotic” and foreign it sounded. So, instead of saying “marijuana”, please use “cannabis” which is the biological and taxonomic name of the plant itself.

- Julia Eunji Choi -


Raylene Pereyra