Respect The Rebels

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The world as we know it will never be the same.

Cannabis legalization is an undeniable win for the movement but it also proves how complicated progress has been fighting for sensible drug policy for decades and only now seeing widespread change. One thing is for sure: cannabis is not going backwards.

With our sights set on the future, it’s easy to forget that we’re standing on the shoulders of giants: growers, activists, scientists, dealers, shop owners, writers — the list is long of people who operated when doing so meant being a renegade in the looming threat of imprisonment.  

A larger question about the gentrification of the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry and the rebranding of stoner culture is how it can be done without bulldozing the past? Legalization is welcome news towards improving public perception so long as removing the stigma doesn’t also mean removing the people or pretending that Big Money and Big Pharma were always on board. We must continue to ask questions about what’s being done for those affected by prohibition, from the deep undercurrents of insidious racial propaganda and mass incarceration, inaccessibility to medicine and unwarranted raids; to the current day controversies of moms who feel they can't openly discuss cannabis use, and others who fear being fired, ostracized, or publicly shamed.  

Part of educating present and future users about the convoluted history of the plant and those who brought it out of the darkness from what has long been a black market operation is by telling their stories. The rest of it — artisanal strains on a spectrum as wide as wine, tailored highs, a fuller appreciation of how cannabis can enhance consciousness and creativity; exercise and pain relief; spirituality and sexuality — is a matter of preference that the next generation will have the choice to indulge without a second guess. In this, we understand our privilege. We understand the responsibility we have to do our part, and that if we’re all still pushing a boulder uphill, we must ask where we can help.   

You can’t do everything but you can refuse to do nothing.

The fact is that cannabis is a mainstream topic at the forefront of politics, pharmaceuticals, art, branding, business, fashion, and the stock market. Its reputation is favourable and poised to create profit for many so long as it's not at the detriment of others. It has permeated the globe to a degree that the people fighting against the "drug war" in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s could have only hoped for.  It is our responsibility to get it right and to respect the rebels.

Respect the Rebels is an ongoing photo, interview and action series that highlights the people who got cannabis to where it is now — the people who have and continue to stoke the fire, and have suffered at the hands of prohibition to varying degrees.  As with all Girls Who Say Fuck projects, the series will be translated into offline experiences where we can open the dialogue, invite others into the space, and raise awareness in a way that’s going to have an impact: through first-hand, real life interaction. This project will take on many forms as it evolves. ‘Respect the Rebels’ merch will help fund this project and donate to various organizations that specialize in aiding the incarcerated and lobbying government to have criminal records for minor marijuana misdemeanours pardoned. It is also an invitation to take part in the sentiment of what it means to respect the rebels and wear those three words to instigate a much larger conversation.