Equity

An Essential Need for Black Health

By Chaney Turner 

“Every cannabis user is a medical patient whether they know it or not.”

Dennis Peron 

Access to affordable medication has always been challenging for poor and lower-income people. But for Black and Brown populations who are disproportionately impacted by systematic racism, gentrification, and displacement — access to affordable cannabis is a necessity. When it comes to approaching our healing from a holistic place, there are many barriers that prevent us from accessing cannabis, even though traditionally Black & Indigenous communities have used plant medicine for centuries.  

In 2012, I was rushed to the ER after being sick for a few days. My blood pressure was ‘180. The doctors were concerned and wanted to find out the cause. After spending a week in the hospital I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism also known as Graves Disease. Doctors gave me 3 options. Have my thyroid surgically removed, take radiation pills for 6 months, or take the medication Methimazole. I chose to take Methimazole while researching more holistic ways to heal myself.

I didn’t realize until years later that my thyroid and chronic illness were stress-related. This led me to do a personal evaluation of how long I’ve lived with stress & anxiety. In reflection I realized I was an anxious child, always stressed with a variety of stomach aches. Anxiety lived in my bones. 

Many things contributed to my anxiety as a child. I was sexually abused at an early age. My mother was addicted to crack cocaine. I’m from East Oakland and grew up in a neighborhood plagued with drugs & violence. Like many Black people, I thought anxiety was a normal part of life; I learned how to live and function with anxiety.


I didn’t realize until years later that my thyroid and chronic illness were stress- related. This led me to do a personal evaluation of how long I’ve lived with stress & anxiety. In reflection I realized I was an anxious child, always stressed with a variety of stomach aches. Anxiety lived in my bones.


Later in life, I started smoking weed and would describe myself as a late smoker. I tried weed a few times as a teen but didn’t start indulging recreationally until after high school. I used to suffer from painful menstrual cramps. The unbearable pain would confine me to my bed for days. Cannabis was the only thing that brought me relief. I eventually got a medical card in 2003 after a car accident. I’m sensitive to opioids and they make me nauseous, so I asked my doctor for a medical marijuana recommendation. Receiving my medical card not only helped with my healing, but it also sparked my interest in the marijuana business. In 2016, along with former partners, I co-founded a Measure Z dispensary in Oakland, Ca. This membership-based dispensary catered to marginalized communities, most of the patients that came through our doors suffered from some form of trauma. 

One of the common narratives on the benefits of cannabis is that it supports veterans with PTSD. While this is true, Black folks living in the hood who are exposed to constant trauma are left out of this narrative. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Systematic racism, violence, and sexual abuse are contributing factors to PTSD. 

The Black Census Project, led by Black Futures Lab, is the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States. Black people across the country shared their thoughts and life experience and the results were informative. 84% of senior respondents say the lack of affordable health care is a “major problem,” while 73% of young respondents under age 30 say the same. Other studies have shown that Black people have some of the highest rates of PTSD, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and other stress-related diseases. These health issues can all be managed with medical marijuana. 

Covid-19 has further exposed the economic & health inequalities that Black & Indigenous people face in America. Coronavirus is real, but let’s be clear, it’s capitalism that’s killing Black, Brown & low-income people whose lives are being sacrificed for this country’s economy. Equity is essential for our health and survival. Investing and empowering communities with the tools & resources they need in order to survive and have a better quality of life. 


Chaney Turner is a national equity thought leader, organzier & cannabis advocate. Chaney
is the Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Equity, a non profit that focuses on empowering & liberating Black communities from extractive systems. They’re also the owner of Town Biz Oakland & Co-Founder of The People’s Dispensary. Chaney’s work embodies the belief that those most impacted by inequities should have the power to implement solutions to those inequities. This work is a logical extension of Chaney’s activism, the majority of which has centered around gentrification, displacement and state sanctioned violence