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Dramatic Times Create Change For A Healer - Q&A With Me Fuimanono-Poe

"Here in Hawaii, Black and Brown men and women face an oppressive justice system and are incarcerated at higher rates than white individuals for the same crimes," says the Malie Cannabis Clinic's Me Fuimanono-Poe.

This story originally appeared on Asian Americans for Cannabis Education

When we first spoke to Me Fuimanono-Poe of the Malie Cannabis Clinic in Hawaii this past February, much has changed in the world, we have been Sheltering in Place and George Floyd’s murder has pushed Black Lives Matter to the forefront for massive national and global change.  We went back to see what has changed in the last 6 months. 

Me Fuimanono-Poe

How did you enter the cannabis industry? 

Me Fuimanono-Poe: I was part of the community first. In 1995 I went on the Global Peace Walk. Our after-party was at the CBC (Cannabis Buyers Club). I met Dennis Peron and was utterly blown away by what he was doing. At the party, I was invited to join the Hemp Walk sponsored by Jack Herrer, and I became a cannabis activist. I have been rallying for this plant ever since.

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How have your views on cannabis changed?

My opinions are always in flux. I am an eternal student, and the more I learn about this plant, the more my perception of her changes. I now believe that cannabis is actually a superfood and should be used like a vitamin or a supplement daily (with 3-day seasonal breaks for tolerance). I am looking forward to the day when I am walking down the street in Kentucky, and there are cannabis plants next to basil in the local cat lady’s garden.

What was the impetus of that change?

I first used cannabis for fun, then for cramps during my period, and in the late 90's I converted to Rastafarianism. I used cannabis as a sacrament and built a community around it; I believed then as I do now that this herb is the healing of the nations. I didn't use cannabis regularly until I was in my 40's. When I started having severe back pain from Spina Bifida Occulta, it was then that I started using cannabis consistently.

This is our time. No longer will we struggle for a system that has kept us and the planet as working prisoners.

The sudden and historic events unfolding in our society have burst open the door to the demons and angels of death and change. Dramatic words are necessary to describe this dramatic time. Even more has changed in our world since I began writing; the deadly explosion in Beirut has triggered the downfall of yet another government in the midst of escalating police violence in Portland over BLM, the horrific mismanagement of the coronavirus in America, and the destruction that comes with the most active hurricane season ever known to modern man. We cannot live this way anymore. I will not live this way anymore.

Most righteous anger now fuels my oath to heal others and my duty to honor my family's legacy of strength. It has led me to make drastic changes to the way I work and live. Above all, I am no longer apologetic for what I know to be true. I briefly considered watering down this piece to make it less "aggressive" and more "acceptable", but instead decided to express my rage at injustice and the compassion working with cannabis has nurtured within me. My newfound energy is laser-focused on the inequities in our justice system, our economy, business management, and public health.

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Here in Hawaii, like the rest of the United States, Black and Brown men and women face an oppressive justice system and are incarcerated at higher rates than white individuals for the same crimes. It is no secret that our industry is built on the broken backs of generations of minority communities and families who still seek reparations while the economic opportunities have been handed to mainly white, educated, resourced professionals. I am no longer turning a blind eye, and I no longer work with those who do so. I now look towards initiatives such as the Illinois Adult-Use Cannabis Social Equity Program and other frameworks with the intention and potential to make things right. There is much to face and even more to do to fix a broken system that criminalizes and undercuts those standing in the way of capitalistic wealth for the few.

My tolerance for casual and overt racism and sexism has also vanished. And I find strength in the rise of a cultural shift that no longer accepts nor protects "leaders" whose views and public statements used to be brushed off as inappropriate-but-excusable-horrible-uncle-behavior, including many in our own industry. More of us are demanding inclusivity, diversity, and accountability across the board. We now insist that businesses represent and stand for their consumer base, beyond the pathetic and disrespectful show of a #BLM meme posted on social media. The days of the Chads leading our industry are numbered as those who were once struggling to break in are finding ways to break down the work of our toxic society. On this front, I am most proud of the work done by Cannaclusive. Their Accountability List is a massive community database of cannabis companies that includes the number of black employees, whether they are POC-owned, how they addressed the killing of George Floyd, and if they've made any relevant contributions/donations. This is what we need more of.

While we are at it, it's time we got back to the real roots of the cannabis movement: access to a natural medicine that every person has a birthright to. We need more collectives, more community cannabis gardens, more compassionate gifting of cannabis, more resources and funding for more Black and Brown women and non-cis folk, more recognition of the history of cannabis and indigenous cultures that honor the plant medicine. I also want to see every non-violent cannabis prisoner released and all cannabis offenses expunged nationwide. And since I am out here dreaming, I want to see tax-funded cannabis research that can properly guide cannabis regulation and legislation focused on medicine, access, and social justice - not gatekeeping economic opportunities and demonizing a plant that has always had the potential to capsize the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry.

Within my own company, the most significant change we made was the creation of a fund to support more women of color working on projects we love. Malie Cannabis Clinic also pivoted to provide more online and virtual services, expanding our reach to those who need it most and have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. My company has always been diverse - like my family, we are multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and filled with strong, beautiful women - and I am determined to continue to nurture and empower this blessing and advantage in my own work and in others' businesses.

We are creating a new world for a new future - one that is sustainable and values life. But we must begin where we are with who we are. I was born with the royalty of matriarchy in my blood; my grandmother's last name is Faleafine, which translates to "The House of the Women". The House of Women we build together today in the midst of chaos and death might be our only way to save the world. The future is female. And we are here for it - with no apologies.