With 4/20 quickly approaching, brands around the country are unveiling weed inspired-campaigns with the eagerness of a sixth grader who’s just discovered his brother’s bong and can’t wait to show it to his friends. Among them is Carl’s Jr. — now officially the first fast-food chain to incorporate CBD into its food, but only in the legal weed capital of Denver, and only at a single location.
The “Rocky Mountain High: Cheeseburger Delight” — a stacked cheeseburger featuring a CBD-infused “Santa Fe Sauce” and costing $4.20 (ya get it yet?) — will serve as a test to see if there’s demand for a CBD burger across the country. According to Business Insider, “The Denver restaurant was picked as the 4/20 test spot in part because Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2014.” Strange considering CBD is legal everywhere and also maybe a scam.
Given that Coca-Cola has been eyeing the CBD market, and federal cannabis legalization is a mainstream political talking point, it was only a matter of time before the big chains started getting in on the weed-adjacent CBD craze. And serving it on a burger loaded with fries and pickles certainly appeals to the weed-induced munchies that makes Carl’s Jr. its most palatable.
It’s a cute gimmick until you consider how, as brands lean further into marijuana-embracing advertising, people — especially people of color — are still incarcerated for minor drug offenses. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 90.8 percent of marijuana arrests in 2017 were for minor possession, and those arrested were disproportionately Black and Latinx. To make matters worse, the 2018 Farm Bill bans anyone with a controlled substance felony from participating in the CBD industry for 10 years after conviction, and while a few states and cities offer equity programs and ways to expunge one’s record, it’s unreasonably difficult for anyone who has bought or sold weed illegally to try to do so legally.
Capitalizing on cannabis’s piecemeal legalization and the spread of CBD without acknowledging the deeply racist and inequitable landscape is actively harmful to creating an equitable industry. Black chefs are already pushing back against the entrenched racism in the cannabis industry, and Carl’s Jr. — if they really want to make a statement — could go ahead and donate proceeds to bail funds or equity programs. Or they can go the easy route with lazy stoner jokes and burger toppings that won’t even get you — or the model they get to eat one in a bikini — high.