As cannabis continues to become more mainstream, more people are taking the opportunity to learn and understand the plant more. The 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is set to feature nine panels discussing cannabis and seven regarding psychedelics in an effort to destigmatize and educate individuals on the nuances surrounding cannabis and its burgeoning industry.
Three of the panels are focused on educating the public in order to destigmatize and create equity in the cannabis space. Culture editor for Leafly, Janessa Bailey, is sitting on the Puff, Puff, Pass: Equity in Cannabis Legalization panel, where they will host a fact-based discussion on topics including the record-high job numbers in legal states, how to measure states’ equity efforts, how the future of cannabis is affected by policy and how to ensure marginalized communities are not left out of the industry.
“Cannabis is a social justice, health care, and economic issue. It is a plant for everyone, and yet not everyone gets to enjoy it with the same privileges, safety, or access,” Bailey said. “Crafting policies that help create a fair and equitable cannabis industry has never been more important.”
Other cannabis topics expected to be covered at SXSW include the increasing popularity of cannabis hospitality, which allows cannabis to be consumed in a communal and social way, how to make the cannabis industry more sustainable and what can be done to offset some of the energy use and carbon emissions caused by cannabis cultivation and another discussion on the use of cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Among the psychedelic topics to be covered include the use of psychedelics for therapeutics and well-being, the ethics of psychedelics being mainstream and the rise of psychedelic tourism.
Weedmaps has also been announced as a key sponsor for the Cannabis Industry Evolution summit at SXSW and will lead a number of panels and presentations during the event. Topics covered during the summit include combatting censorship in the cannabis space, rewriting cannabis drug testing policies, the view of cannabis on the world stage and how technology can help grow the cannabis industry.
SXSW initially held a vote that allowed people to vote on the drug-related topics they would like to have discussed at the 2022 edition of the event. Nearly 100 proposed panels topics were voted on, such as social equity in the cannabis industry. There was also an increase in the amount of proposed psychedelic panels in 2022 compared to 2021. Panelists for the 2022 SXSW cannabis discussions include Vivien Azer, managing director senior research analyst beverages, tobacco & cannabis at Cowen, David Culver, VP international government relations at Canopy Growth Corp., John Kagia, chief knowledge officer at New Frontier Data, Darren Weiss, chief operating officer and general counsel at Verano Holdings Corp., and more.
Also making its debut at SXSW is the cannabis documentary film, The Sentence of Michael Thompson, which is about Michael Thompson, the longest-serving nonviolent offender in Michigan history. Thompson left prison in January 2021 after serving 26 years, with three rejected appeals and two denials for clemency. The film explores Thompson’s journey, from his arrest for selling cannabis to his 40–60-year sentence, to his eventual pardon by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The documentary was directed by Kyle Thrash and Haley Elizabeth Anderson and is financed by Cresco Labs, making it the first social justice film backed by a cannabis brand to be included in the festival. A recent study from the American Medical Association found legalized or decriminalized cannabis led to a large reduction in ‘race-based arrests among adults,” showing that a reduction in arrests is important when discussing social equity.
“Several hundred thousand Americans—predominantly Black and Latinx—continue to be incarcerated on marijuana-related charges every year,” said Chima Enyia, executive vice president of Cresco Labs’ Seed social equity initiative.