A mural depicting civil rights icon John Lewis


Red State Green: An Introduction

Bryan McAllister

By Bryan McAllister

July 5, 2023

Hi. My name is Bryan McAllister. If you’re a long-time reader of High There, you may recognize my name and face from a lot of our informational and how-to articles; “

,” “” and our popular “” are a just a few of the pieces I’ve penned for this site over the years.

I consider myself both privileged and very lucky to have made High There my profession in that time, and take a lot of pride in the work I do here, helping to educate and inform about a topic that still has a lot of common misconceptions — and unlearned information — to discuss.


“Bryan McAllister” is not my name. Nor is that an actual photograph of me used for my profile. (Thank you

for that.)

No matter the role I have taken on at High There, I have always insisted on anonymity.


Because I was born in Mississippi.

This is the first in a series of articles about cannabis use, cultivation, and social perceptions in the Southern reaches of the United States.

Mississippi state capitol building, by Pieter van de Sande via Unsplash

I was raised in a place about as Deep South as you can go without getting sand in your shoes from the Gulf Coast and lived many years in the heart of downtown Jackson — a place known for being one of the

in the United States. If cannabis use was frowned upon in general across the U.S. at one point, to say it had a particular hatred in the Deep South would be an understatement.

If you’re reading this article, and have read

on our website, I trust you have a familiarity with the connection between cannabis prohibition and racism, and how the stigma against cannabis use and harshly/unevenly applied laws have both been used to target and oppress minority communities — long since the () “War on Drugs” ever began.

Mississippi in particular finds itself in a unique position. While the state is majority white-populated, it’s major city centers

, and (barring Washington D.C.) Mississippi has the of Black citizens of any state in America.

While cannabis possession was “decriminalized” in Mississippi

, stiff fines and additional jail sentences for “paraphernalia” or “possession with intent to sell” ensured oppression of cannabis would remain high, and particularly able to be used as a tool against poor and minority communities. To note: Mississippi has the largest incarceration rate in the U.S., with one in five inmates were arrested due to , and of its prison population consisting of Black citizens.

With the above in mind, it might make sense as to why I prefer keeping my cannabis coverage, writing and use under wraps. Though I am privileged enough not to be either a minority or of the lowest income brackets, I can assure first-hand that laws enforcing cannabis prohibition are used heavily against those outside of under-privileged demographics as well, even if on a lesser scale. As a dominating force, drug prohibition has historically been lead by white leadership and citizens, but this same group is also not protected from the laws they enact (only generally by the system that upholds them).

A street car in New Orleans

However as Black population has begun to turn to Black leadership in urban areas, attitudes toward cannabis use — and its criminality — have begun to change as well. First with state capitol Jackson

cannabis use, followed by the college city of (and while I’m here, please allow me to say: Go Golden Eagles!). Though not the solution of true legalization I and many others would have personally hoped for, these changes marked a welcome shift toward reducing the social injustices associated with cannabis — a small step that began heralding something much larger.

In 2020, Mississippi citizens — on a ballot initiative — approved a medical cannabis law. Not just a law but a surprisingly

law, akin to what many would once call “California-style medical”. This ballot initiative not only passed but did so with over — a clear sign that the citizens of Mississippi overwhelmingly wanted access to cannabis use.

Mississippi state leadership then proceeded to not only invalidate the ballot measure after it had passed, but also struck down

. The original bill, which had some about “Oklahoma”-style medical laws, was replaced in 2022 with alternative medical cannabis measure; though the original replacement was more restrictive than the ballot initiative, the placed into law allowed for greater amounts for personal possession, though higher fees and more restrictions on farming.

Notably, though: While the replacement medical cannabis bill has passed, the right for citizens to place measures on state-wide ballots

; though one liberty passes, another — the same one that brought it into being — dies quietly behind senate doors, time and time again.

A group of musicians plays in downtown New Orleans

Tales such as these are not uncommon through the Southern states. And it is that sort of duality that will be a large focus of these articles — stories about both progress and regression, about how some things change, some things remain the same, and how very old places find themselves adjusting to things that are new. Cannabis legalization and decriminalization both help with social justice issues… but just how much? Are these changes deep enough to be long lasting? Or is the quick fix of a puff just another way of offering placation, while the same systemic troubles still prowl hungrily right behind the smoke?

In this series, we’ll be interviewing individuals from a wide spectrum of cannabis use and production, and across multiple states within the American South; we’ll delve into how these changes have affected local citizens, what they may mean for financial opportunities and how the changing legality of cannabis use impacts minority and underprivileged communities — for both good and for ill.

It is my hope to showcase a wide variety of experiences and voices, including some that our readers from outside of the Southern states may not be familiar with. It’s important to remember: We — the South — are not a monolith. Jackson, Mississippi is as different from Lexington, Kentucky as San Fransisco is from Dallas, Texas. No one state or city is exactly the same, and there are stories to tell from many places across the South, each state with its own unique identities, local laws, cultures and business practices.

I hope you’ll come with me as I try to shine a light on a place — for ill and good alike — I truly love. I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Next: We speak with Ray Holbrook, the owner of Kush Vibez, a chain of cannabis and CBD dispensaries located through-out the Deep South; he shares his thoughts on social equality, navigating legal pathways, the struggles of being a minority business owner and the joys of Southern cooking, in our next Red State Green.

Bryan McAllister

About The Author

Bryan McAllister