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Health disparities

Black Americans are often at the bottom of lists of health indicators. For example, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. The cdc.gov website reveals that between the ages of 50-64, African Americans have markedly increased rates of high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and stroke.

Infographic showing disparities in high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke in African Americans and White Americans
Comparison of health indicators in Blacks and Whites (from cdc.gov)

Many, if not most, of these disparities are driven by inequities built into American society and everyday living. It's important to understand the social determinants of health (SDOH) and how they drive poor health in African Americans from cradle to grave. For example, black neighborhoods may have less access to quality nutrition. That means buying less of vegetables and more of calorie and salt-laden foods, which leads to more hypertension and diabetes. It may be hard to get to a health center because of lack of a good transportation system. Households in low-income areas typically own few or no vehicles, have longer commutes, and higher transportation costs. Then, because of discriminatory hiring practices, a Black person may be without a job, which may make health insurance difficult to come by. Some medications are expensive and unaffordable on a low income.

Mental health

Just like hypertension, diabetes and stroke shown above, African Americans are at high risk for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. However, the prevalence of depression and anxiety among African Americans may be underreported for a couple of reasons: The first is that the design of the psychiatry Bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is based on studies conducted on white subjects, raising a question of cultural sensitivity and inclusion. Secondly, African Americans are less likely than whites to seek psychiatric help. They are more likely to turn for help from the community, e.g. a minister or family doctor. In general, black men are less likely than black women to seek help in any form.

Anxiety disorder is the most common psychiatric disorder in the US, affecting some 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year, yet only some 37% of affected people are under treatment. Anxiety disorder includes Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder. In one study , these illnesses were more chronic for blacks than whites, and the rates of recovery were less in blacks.

What is CBD, and how might it help?

Part of a cannabis plant and a small jar of CBD tincture
Cannabis plant and CBD tincture

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of the more than 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. It has been used by millions of people as a natural remedy for different physical and mental ailments. CBD comes in many edible forms, like gummies, tinctures, and so on.

CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like hemp seed or olive oil. When we talk about CBD, we’re not referring to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive component in cannabis that causes the sensation of “being high.” CBD is not psychoactive.

Although it might seem that CBD is a “new” phenomenon, people have used cannabis for millennia. One reason why CBD is now gaining momentum all over the world is that it offers an alternative to treatment of conditions like pain and anxiety. Anyone who has taken opioids like hydrocodone (e.g. Norco) for pain knows how groggy and “loopy,” so many people have been in search of a remedy that can provide relief without those uncomfortable side effects.

The top three conditions that for which CBD is taken are, (1) pain; (1) anxiety; (3) insomnia in 40%, 20%, and 11% of CBD users respectively. The heaviest users are in the 35-49 age group (nearly one-third). Men are more likely to use CBD for insomnia, while women tend to use it for anxiety.

CBD usage in African Americans

Bloomberg Business News points out that like so many other areas of business and society, the CBD world is dominated by white men. The end result is that black-owned CBD has a tougher time rising to the top where they can be visible to the African American consumer, who would presumably be highly interested in patronizing Black-owned establishments. There are a number of female Black-owned CBD businesses in this now highly competitive field, including Kush and Cute, Royal Highness and Green Muse.

The Brightfield Group, a cannabis study group, in its demographic breakdown, that cannabis usage (including but not exclusively CBD by itself) is highest in whites (64% of users), followed by Latino (12%) and African American (5%). So, just like inequities in health care, African Americans are being left behind in the cannabis revolution. What could be the reason for this?

  1. Blacks are 3-4 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana use, even though their usage are about equal in the two groups. This means a large segment of Blacks will be unable to work in the cannabis industry because of a drug-related felony, even though they may have been arrested just for the possession of a single joint, which should be a minor offense or no offense at all.

  2. Setting up a cannabis business takes a lot of capital and Blacks are disadvantaged in this area in many ways, e.g. the inability to secure a loan, and the dearth of Black venture capitalists that can invest in Black cannabis startups. Like elsewhere, racism is embedded in venture capitalism.

  3. Accessibility can be a problem for African American cannabis users, e.g. lack of stores/dispensaries close by, lack of a way to order online because of financial means or the inability to access the Internet.

  4. Legal hurdles and red tape for would-be Black entrepreneurs can be overwhelming, especially where covert discrimination may be taking place.

The future

For CBD use to increase in African American communities, there needs to be self-reliant and reciprocal support between businesses and customers, i.e. customers should look for and buy from Black cannabis businesses, while Black cannabis businesses should reach out to potential Black customers through social media, for example. It may take some effort, but it's important that African Americans don't allow themselves to be left behind in the potential benefits of CBD.

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