In a February HuffPost Live interview, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — founders of the popular and quirky Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand — disclosed that they would consider releasing a marijuana-infused ice cream if legalization were to happen on a national level.
“Makes sense to me,” Cohen said. “Combine your pleasures.”
Greenfield, who was less forthcoming in his response, explained, “Ben and I have had previous experiences with substances, and I think legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing.” But, he continued, “It’s not my decision. If it were my decision, I’d be doing it, but fortunately we have wiser heads at the company that figure those things out.”
Cohen and Greenfield have made a name for themselves in the past as being marijuana-friendly CEOs, a typically uncommon stance among major corporate leadership. In any event, it may take some careful bureaucratic negotiation, but a line of infused ice cream from the munchies masters themselves would be undoubtedly lucrative.
Currently, four states and Washington D.C. have passed recreational marijuana laws and the federal government has granted Native American tribes the right to conduct regulated marijuana business on reservation lands. There are dozens of marijuana reform proposals across the country under consideration, and the trend of legalization is being addressed by all levels of government.
Ben & Jerry’s reputation as a quirky ice cream company is no secret, and every one of their flavors is far from normal. In a HuffPost Live interview Wednesday, founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield hinted that they’d be open to a higher level of experimentation in the future — specifically, they would consider making a cannabis-infused ice cream should legal hurdles be removed.
“Makes sense to me,” Cohen told host Alyona Minkovski matter-of-factly. “Combine your pleasures.”
Greenfield seemed a little more hesitant, but he didn’t rule it out.
“Ben and I have had previous experiences with substances, and I think legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing,” he said. “It’s not my decision. If it were my decision, I’d be doing it, but fortunately, we have wiser heads at the company that figure those things out.”
For white folks, celebrating cannabis culture is fun and relatively safe — after all, even in states that have not legalized recreational marijuana, law enforcement often turns a blind eye to whites’ recreational use. Earlier this month, our co-founders (Ben and Jerry) gave a speechOpens a new window about how their lives would have been different had they not grown up white and how they were let off with no charges when the police found pot on them. But for people of color, it’s a different story.
It’s interesting because, in many ways, things are looking up for users and growers of marijuana. Of course, thanks to the Controlled Substances ActOpens a new window, possessing, buying, or selling pot is still a federal crime, but 39 statesOpens a new window have legalized it anyway. The pot business is huge. Even John Boehner, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, wants in on itOpens a new window.
But all that success is masking some serious systemic racismOpens a new window. BoehnerOpens a new window, who once was “unalterably opposedOpens a new window” to legalization, may have changed his mind (did we mention that $10 billionOpens a new window?), but Fate Vincent WinslowOpens a new window, a homeless Black man, is serving a life sentence after trying to help an undercover officer buy some weed. He was hoping to make a $5 profit on the deal.
There were more than 8 millionOpens a new window pot arrests between 2001 and 2010. That’s one every 37 seconds! As you might expect, arrests have fallenOpens a new window since states began legalizing the drug (although, in 2016, more people were still arrested for marijuana than murder, rape, assault, and other violent crimes combined), but that decline has altered the fact that more Black people are being arrested than white people.
Take a look at a state like AlaskaOpens a new window. Alaska legalized marijuana in 2014; afterward, arrests plummeted. Arrests for whites were down by 99%, for Blacks by 93%. Great news! But… blacks were still being arrested 10 times more often than whites.
It’s the same story all across the country, from Washington, DC, to Colorado, even though whites and Blacks use marijuana at similar ratesOpens a new window. That’s racist and it has to end.
Rolling Up Our Sleeves
So, what can we do about it? Today, we ask you to join with us and call on Congress to expunge prior marijuana convictions and provide pardons/amnesty to anyone whose only crime was smoking a joint. Many cities and statesOpens a new window have already begun working on this—it’s time for the federal government (sorry, Attorney General SessionsOpens a new window, but you’re outnumberedOpens a new window) to be part of the solution.
Next year, let’s make sure that 4/20 is a fun day for every American.