The wildly popular hotel alternative, Airbnb, highlights their anti-discrimination efforts in a recent letter to the public regarding minorities being denied lodging. It’s a silent but deep-seeded issue for medical marijuana patients too, as they are denied the right to safely take their medicine while traveling to another state, territory, or country with a medical marijuana program.
“After all, the sad truth is that racial biases (as well as other forms of bias) are deeply embedded in the culture of our nation. No one company can create an alternative universe where they do not exist,” writes Laura Murphy, Airbnb’s newest hire in charge of looking into discrimination claims and solutions.
Prior to the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Jim Crow laws were the way of the South. Booking a hotel while black was a near impossible feat, explained Murphy. Murphy used to work in Washington, D.C. at the American Civil Liberties Union office there. She also worked as the District’s first Director of Tourism in the 1990’s, a position which gave her a look into the sad state of affairs for tourists of color. “I became familiar with the many tactics long used by hotels, restaurants, and tour companies to facilitate or ignore racial discrimination. Before a sharing economy company like Airbnb was even imagined, there were established problems with discrimination in the travel and tourism industry.”
Unsurprisingly, Airbnb’s initial report concludes there isn’t a solution to ending discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual identity, but there are changes they can make to their platform to even out the booking game in certain cases – like making a user’s picture less prominent on their profile. The company has also offered a list of consultants to come up with solutions to be more inclusive of African Americans on their platform; two of which are former members of the Obama administration. Former Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Margaret Richardson.
Airbnb employees have stated in town halls how they support tactics to combat discrimination not just for African American travelers but for Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ, as well as people with disabilities.
The appeal of Airbnb is the safe, verified, accountable network of listings with a responsive support team. Their recently updated anti-discrimination policy does not accommodate a mechanism for cannabis patients not to be discriminated against in places where it’s legal. That leaves someone who relies on cannabis to have to use 420-friendly booking platforms such as budandbfast.com, or using other cannabis community apps.
The Airbnb online marketplace of listings range from studio apartments in the city to secluded castles, and the app has about 1.5 million listings in 191 countries. At the end of the report, Airbnb doubles down on its promise to begin enforcing punishment of suspension from the platform if a user is found guilty of discrimination:
“As the Airbnb community grows, we will continue to ensure that guests and hosts feel welcome and respected in all of their interactions using the Airbnb platform, the public, our community, and we ourselves, expect no less than this.”
A San Francisco based company with a huge network of people spanning the entire world have begun to address anti-discrimination issues. It’s yet to be seen what would spark a conversation on medical marijuana.