LOS ANGELES — Climbing above hurdles and trials is nothing new for Phyllis and Robert Dorsey, a tight-knit mother and son.
When Robert Dorsey was sentenced to four years in prison for marijuana possession back in 2013, he soon learned that the system was not in his favor.
“I learned the disadvantages of being a Black man in the judicial system that we have now," he said. "There were Caucasian people on my case, and they, for sure, received lesser sentences and also being relatives of people [who were] a part of the judicial system, they were able to manipulate different things, and they definitely received lesser sentences.”
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for Black people than white people charged with the same offense. And those disparities impact real lives, like that of Robert’s mother.
“Well of course being [a] mom that was the most devastating and dark period of my life," she said. "That my firstborn would be incarcerated. He was brought up in a Christian home so, of course, the first thought we had was how this could happen to us, and why did it happen. But then we soon realized that life was life and we had to accept what had happened and had to make lemonade out of lemons.”
And today, that lemonade that Phyllis and Rob are creating includes opening up a legal cannabis dispensary through the city of Los Angeles’s social equity program with training and financial support from 4thMVMT, a company that helps communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.
“All that we do and all of the hard work that we have put in for the last two years is to help propel our generational wealth. So we can make a difference in the lives of the people we come into contact with,” Phyllis Dorsey said.
The very substance they were once criminalized for, will now become an economic opportunity to make up for the lost time.
“There can be things that can be misinterpreted, but the biggest thing that we all want to see is equality and change,” he said.