In this episode of Call Me Cannabinoids, Pete interviews Bunna Lim of Saint and Center, THC-free CBD company based in Atlanta, Georgia. They discuss cannabis law, social justice reform, and the social impact CBD companies can make on local cannabis laws.
The CBD and medical marijuana markets are booming, and cannabis products are more mainstream than ever before. Despite the public’s growing acceptance of cannabis-derived products (with and without THC), Bunna says there is still a disproportionate number of people negatively affected by cannabis laws.
“How does an industry make billions of dollars per year in these legalized states and illegal states, and yet we have people getting locked up for minor marijuana offenses?” he says. “It’s affecting their lives.”
Bunna is passionate about helping cannabis companies mobilize in their communities to bring awareness to the situation and affect change.
“I think there are too many situations where people are too busy counting money instead of counting the people who are locked up for recharges,” Bunna says. “We want people to understand that it’s disproportionate in terms of color; black and brown people are getting locked up more often than everybody else.
“If it doesn’t affect you, it affects somebody you know. If we’re making money off of this industry, we should be giving back to it.”
What Cannabis Decriminalization Really Means
Bunna says cannabis decriminalization is a nationwide issue, but the need for justice reform in Georgia is staggering. Saint and Center is actively working with ReformGeorgia, an organization seeking to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system and marijuana laws.
Many people across the country who have been jailed for marijuana offenses can’t afford to pay bail, so they remain in jail while awaiting trial–before they’ve been proven guilty or innocent. ReformGeorgia and similar organizations advocate for decriminalizing small marijuana offenses; this means that a person who is caught with less than an ounce of marijuana on their person would receive a ticket, rather than being arrested.
“People who have no money for bail are missing work, missing exams, missing college. They’re getting kicked out of their houses while they’re locked up,” Bunna says. “They have their lives turned upside down, and it doesn’t make sense for the news to report about the booming marijuana industry, yet people are getting locked up for minor offenses.”
For Bunna’s part, this is an issue that hits close to home: he has a marijuana charge on his record which hasn’t yet been expunged. The charge kept him from entering pharmacy school as a teen, and he says similar minor charges on other peoples’ records are keeping them from building a productive life.
“Everybody deserves a fair shake at life,” he says. “We need to put systems in place to make sure we gain that balance.”
Advocating Locally to Affect Change
Bunna says, as a CBD company, Saint and Center wants to “focus on giving back to the people who are being negatively affected by cannabis law.” He says CBD companies that want to join in similar advocacy work should begin in their local communities.
“I can sit here and say nobody needs to go to jail for a roach. You shouldn’t go to jail for going 25 mph over the speed limit,” he says. “You’re trying to weigh right and wrong. Some people would say, ‘It’s the law.’ But there’s so much hypocrisy in the laws across the nation.
“You can’t say you’re making a billion dollars off this industry, and then lock somebody up for a nickel bag. It needs to be addressed; you can start from a county level and empower your officials to make the right decisions.”