THE ENLIGHTENED VOICE
#16 | AUGUST 2021
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IN MEMORIAM FRENCHY CANNOLI, HASH LEGEND
SHOP REVIEW SWEET FLOWER MELROSE
AL HARRINGTON FROM THE NBA TO THE POT SHOP
44 Prohibition’s Racist Roots The legacy of Cannabis prohibition in this country emerges in big and small ways in the Cannabis industry of today. Leaf Nation’s Bobby Black explores how race-baiting journalism and racist politics impacted Cannabis for generations to come.
////////// story by bobby black
COLLAGE BY BOBBY BLACK
CA Leaf interviewed Loriel Alegrete, CEO & Co-founder of 40 Tons in Los Angeles, as part of our feature Voices of the Cannabis Community, examining pivotal questions of equality, equity, growth and potential, in the Cannabis industry across the country.
Breaking the Grass Ceiling
Mary J. White, Chef & Cannabis Cookbook Author
Profiles of Women-owned Cannabis Businesses
9 10 12 14 16 18 20 23 24 26 30 32 36 38 40 44 46
the EQUALITY issue
Voices of the Cannabis Community
CAL I F O R N I A
EDITOR’S NOTE NATIONAL NEWS FRENCHY CANNOLI SHA’CARRI RICHARDSON PUT COLOR BACK IN CANNABIS BUDTENDER Q&A SHOP REVIEW EDIBLE OF THE MONTH STRAIN OF THE MONTH VOICES OF THE CANNABIS COMMUNITY FROM THE NBA TO THE POT SHOP BREAKING THE GRASS CEILING FIGHTING FOR A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD MINORITY-LED CANNABIS ORGANIZATIONS COVER ARTIST GUILHERME LEMES CANNTHROPOLOGY STONEY BALONEY
Farmer's Reserve is top-shelf flower with a full-bodied taste and feel that offers incredible depth in terpene and cannabinoid profiles. Each cultivar celebrates the connection of the cannabis plant to the planet, to the grower and to our personal communities.
E S TA B L I S H E D 2 0 1 0
T H E E N L I G H T E N E D VO I C E
N O RT H W E S T L E A F / O R EG O N L E A F / A L AS KA L E A F / M A RY L A N D L E A F / CA L I F O R N I A L E A F / N O RT H E AS T L E A F
A B O U T T H E C OV E R Inspired simultaneously by the vibrant interconnectedness of all life and the battle against generations of systematic oppression and unjust incarceration, Brazilian-born artist Guilherme Lemes incorporated a number of richly colored symbols of the struggle for equality and equity into the art for this month’s cover. “If you’re going to plant a seed, you need your hands,” he said. “So, the future is in your hands. That is the feeling I had when I made this cover. … Let’s use our hands to build a good future from this point.” See more of Lemes’ art on page 40.
ILLUSTRATION by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
WES ABNEY | FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
TERON BEAL, PHOTOS BOBBY BLACK, FEATURES JOSHUA BOULET, ILLUSTRATION TOM BOWERS, FEATURES EARLY, PRODUCTION EMILY EIZEN, PHOTOS + REVIEWS STEVE ELLIOTT, NATIONAL NEWS SANDY HUFFAKER, PHOTOS ALEXA JESSE, FEATURES BAXSEN PAINE. FEATURES LINDSAY MAHARRY, REVIEWS JEFF PORTERFIELD, DESIGN MIKE RICKER, FEATURES MEGHAN RIDLEY, EDITING MIKE ROSATI, PHOTOS ZACK RUSKIN, FEATURES EMEHT SHERMAN, SALES O’HARA SHIPE, FEATURES JENNIFER SKOG, PHOTOS GUILHERME LEMES, ILLUSTRATION JAMIE VICTOR, DESIGN NATE WILLIAMS, FEATURES
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Editor’s Note Thanks for picking up The Equality Issue of the Leaf! WHEN I BEGAN publishing the Leaf in 2010, my mission and hope was to help shape an environment in which Cannabis users could feel equal to the rest of society. To no longer be shamed or risk arrest or worse, for using a medicine or recreational substance that’s safer than alcohol. Now, over 11 years into this publishing journey, we ask the question with this annual issue: What is equality when it comes to Cannabis? Google defines equality as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities.” But how does this concept play out in the real world, where 100 years of the War on Drugs has torn apart lives and communities? What does an equal future for Cannabis look like? What used to be my simple answer of decriminalize and legalize for equality, has become so much more complex as the Cannabis industry and movement has grown from protests into a multi-billion dollar industry.
OUR GOAL IN SHARING THESE VOICES IS TO START A CONVERSATION AND INSPIRE YOU, OUR READERS, TO DO THE SAME.
Knowing that we don’t have the exact answer to this question, we took to the proverbial streets to ask heritage activists, influencers and stakeholders from around the country to explain what equality means to them in our Community Voices piece. This beautiful collection of thoughts can be found in our special section of this issue, and you can dive even deeper with complete answers to the full range of questions we couldn’t fit in print at leafmagazines.com. Our goal in sharing these voices is to start a conversation and inspire you, our readers, to do the same. This can be small – talking to a community member, family or coworker about your benefits from medicinal or recreational Cannabis, to signing a petition or volunteering with a local Cannabis organization.
For Cannabis as a plant, as well as our movement, to be viewed as equal, we must come together and be seen as unified in our beautiful, diverse and passionate community. I hope that this issue and the voices shared within will inspire you to take action, and give us pause to appreciate all the sacrifices that have been made so that we can all enjoy our plant without fear.
Have a strain, product, or news tip that the California Leaf staff needs to know about? Contact us at tom@LeafMagazines.com!
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SCHUMER SAYS ENDING MARIJUANA PROHIBITION A TOP PRIORITY
ajority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on July 15 said on the Senate floor that he will use his clout to make legislation ending the federal prohibition of Cannabis a top priority, reports The Hill. The legislation would also allow state-compliant Cannabis businesses to have access to financial services, such as bank accounts and loans. The federal Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug. That has resulted in an estimated 40,000 Americans behind bars because of Cannabisrelated offenses, according to Forbes. “I am the first majority leader to say it’s time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana,” Schumer said. “And as majority leader, I’m going to push this issue forward and make it a priority for the Senate.” Schumer also said the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would make “monumental change.” Marijuana would be removed from the federal list of controlled substances. The bill would also expunge the criminal records of those with low-level marijuana offenses.
MARIJUANA HOME DELIVERY SERVICES LAUNCH IN MASSACHUSETTS
ome-delivered Cannabis has arrived in Massachusetts. At least two companies announced in mid-July that they have launched operations. Lantern, a sister company of the popular alcohol delivery service Drizly, says it’s now serving the Boston area. Your Green Package, meanwhile, says its driver teams have hit the road in the greater Northampton area in the western end of the state. The companies are among the first to benefit from the creation of new state licenses for recreational marijuana delivery companies, reports Boston.com. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission said on July 16 that 11 companies have so far been licensed for deliveries, and three of them are now operating. Cannabis advocates have for years called on the state to allow for marijuana delivery businesses, which are already permitted in some form in many of the 19 states that have legalized recreational weed.
Democratic Senators – Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Cory Booker of (N.J.) – are sponsoring the new federal legalization bill.
grams of Cannabis extract are allowed under New Mexico’s new adult-use legalization law.
The new licenses are critical to making the local Cannabis industry more equitable, according to Aaron Goines, President of the group Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery. He and others say the financial investment and regulatory approvals needed to open a traditional brick-and-mortar retail operation are sometimes too great for minority entrepreneurs to overcome. “This license type is a major piece of the equation in making the Massachusetts Cannabis industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive,” Goines said in a statement at the time. Midwest
OHIO LAWMAKERS INTRODUCE CANNABIS LEGALIZATION BILL
wo Democratic Ohio lawmakers have drafted a new bill that would legalize and regulate sales for both personal and commercial cultivation of Cannabis, while keeping the state’s current medical marijuana program intact. Under the bill, those medical businesses could get a license to sell recreational marijuana as well. Those with nonviolent, low-level marijuana convictions could have their records sealed. This decriminalization could fill jobs in Ohio, while giving back resources to law enforcement, reports News 5 Cleveland. Democratic state Reps. Casey Weinstein of Hudson and Terrence Upchurch of Cleveland said they drafted the bill to legalize cultivation – personal and commercial – and to regulate sales. It would also allow people previously convicted of low-level marijuana crimes to have their records sealed. “We’re seeing there are dramatic economic benefits, there are medical benefits, and there’s a strong criminal justice avenue here so we can focus law enforcement on violent crime,” Weinstein said, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer. “Right now the reality is if Ohio doesn’t act, we are falling behind,” Weinstein said.
percent of Czech Republic citizens aged 15 to 34 admit trying Cannabis at least once.
percent of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe in New York voted to allow adults to use Cannabis.
CANNABIS USERS STILL CAN’T LEGALLY BUY A GUN IN VIRGINIA
lthough the adult use of Cannabis became legal in Virginia on July 1 and it is legal to possess a firearm, Virginians have to pick one or the other. They cannot legally do both, reports 6 News Richmond. “If I smell it, I know that you’re using, it’s my decision not to sell it to you,” said Gene Landry, owner of Old Town Silver Exchange in Henrico. “If you choose that you want to partake in marijuana, then firearms are out of the question for you,” said Sean Banks, CEO of Virginia Tactical Shooting Academy. Banks said those looking to purchase a firearm need to fill out a federal form from ATF. The form asks if you are an unlawful user or are addicted to marijuana, then goes on to warn that the use or possession of the drug remains unlawful under federal law, regardless of whether it’s legalized in the state. “If they answer that question that they do or would like to, then we legally can’t sell them a firearm,” said Banks. “Whether being that it’s legal in the state of Virginia, that has no bearing on federal statutes.” Banks said this was also the case for medical marijuana cardholders as well, saying they have had to turn customers away because of it.
MARYLAND HOUSE SPEAKER SUPPORTS MARIJUANA REFERENDUM
aryland’s House Speaker announced her support July 16 for a referendum to legalize Cannabis on next year’s ballot. House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, also announced a panel to study how to implement a recreational marijuana program in Maryland – if voters approve. “While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said in a statement. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters, but we need to start looking at changes needed to state law now.”
years ago, in China, Cannabis was first domesticated by humans, according to a new study.
dollars will be generated by New York State’s marijuana industry by 2024, according to the governor’s office.
STORIES by STEVE ELLIOTT, AUTHOR OF THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF MARIJUANA
Requiem for a
HASHISHIN FRENCHY CANNOLI 1956-2021
Remembering Frenchy Cannoli, world-renowned hashish maker and educator.
HE CANNABIS COMMUNITY
was shocked and saddened last month to learn of the untimely passing of one of its most beloved figures – world-renowned hashish maker, connoisseur, historian and educator Frenchy Cannoli, who died Sunday, July 18 from complications during a surgical procedure. He was 64 years old. Known for his unmistakable thick French accent and infectious enthusiasm, Frenchy was a regular fixture at most major Cannabis events, where he would turn on hundreds of attendees to the joys of traditional hashish with his huge hookah and “Lost Art of the Hashishin” workshops. Cami “Frenchy” Cannoli was born on December 13, 1956, in Nice, France. As a child, he was enthralled by stories of the Far and Middle East like “1001 Arabian Nights” and “The Travels of Marco Polo” (where he first learned of the mysterious drug known as hashish), and fantasized of someday traveling to these exotic Eastern lands and cultures. But those childhood dreams quickly faded, and as he approached adulthood, he found himself illequipped to cope with the pressures of the modern world. “I was 17-years-old and I was facing life, and I just didn’t want any part of it,” Cannoli confessed. “I was flipping out, but I didn’t know what to do anymore – I had forgotten about my dream of traveling. Then my best friend, after six months of struggling whether he was going to make me smoke my first [Moroccan hash joint] or not – because he was afraid he could break our friendship – finally found the courage to share a smoke with me and that was it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do – I just wanted to travel, and that’s what I did.” Leaving home with just $450 in his pocket, Cannoli dropped out of Western society and spent the next two decades as a nomad. “I took 18 years of retirement up front, just in case,” he joked. Following in the footsteps of his heroes Marco Polo and Henry de Monfreid (a French adventurer and hashish smuggler), Frenchy traveled the world in pursuit of the finest hashish and the culture behind it. Following the old Hippie Trail of the 1960s and early ‘70s, he traveled to many of the world’s top Cannabis and hash-producing centers (including Mexico, Morocco, Thailand, Pakistan, Nepal and India) and studied the traditional techniques of the region. Regretfully, he was never able to visit Afghanistan, as it was too dangerous when he was in the area during the 1980s; he did, however, study under an Afghani refugee hashishin (hash maker) while in India, where he spent several years living in caves in Manala and the Parvati Valley learning to make charas (handrubbed hash) from the locals. He’d typically spend around three to four months a year building his hash stash in the remote areas of these hash-producing countries, then spend the remainder of his year smoking it on a beach somewhere and using it as currency.
It was on the full moon of June 1980, while living in Nepal, that Frenchy met his future wife Kimberly at a birthday celebration. “It was an epic party, and the beginning of a 41-year relationship,” she recalls. “We ran into each other traveling separately in India four times before we decided the universe had plans for us, and I joined him and the group of friends he was traveling with.” After the birth of their daughter Eva in 1989, Frenchy decided to put his passion for hashish aside for a time to focus on being a dad – working various jobs in Asia before moving his family to the Bay Area in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until Eva left home for college that he rededicated himself to his first love. Since then, he made a name for himself as one of the world’s leading experts on hashish – earning him the well-deserved title “master hashishin.” Putting his decades of knowledge to use, he devoted himself to educating the Cannabis community about hashish – launching his acclaimed “Lost Art of the Hashishin” seminar series of DIY videos and classes, and penning articles in nearly every major Cannabis publication about the history and science of hashish. And under his signature brand V.S.O.P. (Very Special Olde Press), he produced some of the finest hash ever made in America. He was also a pioneer in studying the effects of aging on hash, and was putting the finishing touches on a book about the history of Cannabis concentrates at the time of his death. Since news of his passing broke, social media has been awash with touching photos and tributes from all corners of the Cannabis community – most of which regarded Frenchy as family. “It has been so extraordinarily therapeutic to read the posts and look at the photos people are sharing with me on Frenchy’s Instagram,” wrote his widow Kimberly. “This community meant so much to him and gave him a place when normal society wanted to toss him aside. His passion was contagious and inspiring. I hope young people will listen to his podcasts and watch his videos and be inspired to take quality to even higher levels.” Au revoir, mon ami … and rest easy knowing that the coals of your passion, joy and wisdom will continue to burn in the hookah of our hearts for generations to come.
STORY by BOBBY BLACK/LEAF NATION | PHOTO by MEADOW SOFTWARE
Learn more about Frenchy’s life and work at frenchycannoli.com
DOT COM WE ARE ONE
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DEAR READER, the whole premise of this column is that we’ve moved on, to a degree, from the stigma associated with Cannabis in the world. We aim, then, to celebrate those who stuck their necks out, so to speak, in defense of what they knew was the truth: Cannabis is harmless and prohibition was a hoax. After last month’s news regarding the Olympics and Sha’Carri Richardson – it’s obvious that I need to rethink this stance.
Highly Likely highlights Cannabis pioneers who have paved the way to greater herbal acceptance.
CASE YOU’RE UNFAMILIAR with this particular situation,
Sha’Carri Richardson is one of the most athletically talented 100 and 200 meter sprinters in United States history. In April of 2021, she ran a 10.72 second 100 meter dash – making her the sixth fastest woman in the world, and the fouth fastest in United States history. In June, she ran it in 10.86 – qualifying her for the Olympic games this summer in Japan. Then, on July 1, she was drug tested and it was discovered that Richardson had THC in her system. She was summarily disqualified from competing in this summer’s Olympic games. For weed? Yes, for weed. Across the country, the reaction was a swift condemnation of the Olympic Committee’s actions. After all, Richardson consumed Cannabis in Oregon, a state where Cannabis is legal. She had also just lost her mother one week prior to the Olympic trials. Richardson was in mourning when she used Cannabis (like many of us do) to cope with emotional stress. But a disqualification from the Olympics truly stings – it is, in effect a four-year ban – since the Olympics are held every four years. And then there is the stigma of a ban, which will sadly stick with Richardson for life. Then there’s the simple fact that Cannabis (when it comes to running or aerobic exercise) is nowhere close to a performanceenhancing drug. In fact, it probably inhibits performance where running or sprinting are concerned. So, that levels this decision down to a moral judgement – one that many of us believe should not be in the hands of the Olympic Committee. This is one of the most egregious, bone-headed decisions that comes to mind in the long, exacerbating lineage of Cannabis intolerance around the world. The funny thing is, this time we’re wagging our collective fingers at the internationally diverse Olympic committee, rather than at U.S. federal law enforcement. And, while many of our fellow Americans agree that this penalty is overtly punitive and ridiculous, it is all our fault as residents of the United States. That’s because the world’s intolerance for Cannabis has been largely shaped by pressure and propaganda from the United States. As the drug war raged in the ‘80s – we forced our own twisted paradigm upon countless nations around the world, many of which had rich and complex histories with Cannabis that were dismantled or forced underground due to imposed threats of sanctions from the world’s superpower – these United States. From Amsterdam to Afghanistan, one can see the cultural imprint of a forced prohibition on this most harmless of all “drugs.” My friends, we still have a very long way to go it seems. But people like Sha’Carri Richardson are our modern-day heroes when it comes to further normalization of the benefits, and relative harmlessness, of the plant we appreciate so dearly.
“This is one of the most egregious, bone-headed decisions that comes to mind in the long, exacerbating lineage of Cannabis intolerance around the world.” AUG. 2021
STORY by PACER STACKTRAIN for LEAF NATION | PHOTO by HOWARD LAO @HOWLAOPHOTOGRAPHY
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Our main goal is to put a spotlight on individuals and organizations that are trying to make the industry a safer space for people of color. WHAT DOES EQUALITY IN CANNABIS MEAN TO YOU? It’s simple: equal opportunities for people of color, the exact same opportunities that white people get. Access to capital, resources, education. Being able to apply for the same jobs without having as many hurdles, or having the same hurdles. An equal playing field for all. Everyone needs to see color and recognize it, but we should not let color nor criminal records get in the way of accomplishing someone’s dream.
PUT COLOR BACK IN CANNABIS
@putcolorbackincannabis | @scheriruthmary
OUR MISSION IS TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE OF COLOR FEEL COMFORTABLE THAT THEY HAVE A SPOT IN THIS INDUSTRY.
WHERE DO YOU SEE INEQUALITY MOST? I notice it on menus in retail shops, and a lack of color on the shelves. This is a strong indicator to me that people (consumers) aren’t doing research to learn what brands are equity owned, and I blame this on a lack of consumer education. Not enough consumers are asking for BIPOC owned brands. Until there is a larger audience demanding these products, it will not inform buyers’ purchases. There are not enough minority owned brands in general, so people can’t find them. There is less money, funding, education and resources for people of color to be able to build their own brands. The biggest barrier is money needed for licenses, sourcing, packaging, etc – people of color just don’t have that access.
Founder Scheri Mathaya
Cannabis equality is the sole mission of Put Color Back in Cannabis. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the BIPOC individuals impacting this industry. Whether it be through collective achievements or cumulative struggles, Put Color Back in Cannabis aims to amplify those voices and facilitate community growth. Scheri is one of those people herself, a confident woman of color who practices what her company preaches by paving the way for Cannabis equality. HOW DID PUT COLOR BACK IN CANNABIS COME TO LIFE? The idea was born in 2019. I was a brand ambassador for Flow Kana, and one day out in the field, I unfortunately experienced a racist encounter. I was puzzled that this was an issue, especially because I moved from Minnesota and here I was in California. I didn’t think I’d have to fight for placement in the industry because of my skin tone, but I quickly realized there was a bigger battle and I wasn’t the only one experiencing this. I knew I needed to bring more light to the BIPOC community and that’s when I built my brand. TELL US MORE ABOUT PUT COLOR BACK IN CANNABIS. We are a merch message brand – all of the merchandise we sell has a message or meaning behind it. You aren’t just purchasing an item, you’re joining a campaign and becoming a community advocate. You are openly saying you stand for this mission and you want to support it. We create awareness about various issues that minorities are struggling with. We address each issue individually so people can learn about it. We are all about highlighting minorities within the Cannabis space. There are so many of us doing different, incredible things – from being executives to distributors, cultivators, chefs, budtenders, artists and everyone in between. Our mission is to make sure people of color feel comfortable that they have a spot in this industry, a place that is already made for them, they shouldn’t have to fight for it.
HOW HAVE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES INFLUENCED THE WORK YOU DO? My experiences motivate me to make changes for the generations that will come after me. That’s my whole thing. I can keep working hard to make positive changes for my generation so that I can experience the benefits, but I’m not going to be here forever, so I want to make a big enough difference so that those that come next don’t have to experience these same hurdles. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HURDLES TO CREATING AN INDUSTRY EQUAL TO ALL? Honestly, my personal opinion is unity. It isn’t there. We have a strong following, but following and reposting can only do so much. There needs to be a united front taking action. People need to speak out to dispensaries, purchase products from people of color – we need to be more conscious with our dollars. We need to be united in wanting something different. I think that is the biggest hurdle. We all talk about it, but how many of us are actually being about it? WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO CONSUME CANNABIS? I really don’t discriminate, I like it all! I am forever an OG stoner, I love me some really potent, stanky, flower – the stankier the better. I consume a lot on the go and on outdoor adventures. I love Old Pal’s ready to roll flower, it’s easy on the go. HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED? Speak, spend, support. Speak up, be open, be loud to dispensaries, budtenders and delivery services about what you want to see on the shelves. Pick and choose where you spend your money. Spend on BIPOC owned brands, equity brands – and if you go to a service that refuses to support these brands – spend your money elsewhere. Openly show support and solidarity for BIPOC/equity owned brands. Support those delivery/retailers. Encourage yourself and your friends to get educated about what is happening within the Cannabis industry for the continuous development of equity and BIPOC brands/entrepreneurs. Show up at events! I actually host a monthly industry night and would love to see you all there.
A Stoner Owner is a Cannabis business owner who has a relationship with the plant. We want to buy and smoke Cannabis from companies that care about their products, employees and the plant. You wouldn’t buy food from a restaurant where the cooks don’t eat in the kitchen, so why buy corporate weed grown by a company only concerned with profits? Stoner Owner approval means a company cares, and we love weed grown with care. Let’s retake our culture and reshape a stigma by honoring those who grow, process and sell the best Cannabis possible.
STORY by ALEXA JESSE @ALEXAJESSE/CALIFORNIA LEAF | PHOTOS by JENNIFER SKOG @JENNIFERSKOG
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CALIFORNIA LEAF BUDTENDER OF THE MONTH EVER SINCE SHE WAS A TEENAGER, Kassandra Rodriguez (@kvsey) had an interest in Cannabis. Despite the stigmas that exist within her Mexican American heritage, it was medicine to her from the start. In a college English class, Kassandra was given free range to write about a topic of her choice, so she decided to do a research paper on the medicinal benefits of Cannabis. Her paper focused on the findings of various Cannabis trials in which children with autism and seizures were treated with Cannabis. The results were enough to alter the trajectory of Kassandra’s career.
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bout a year ago, Kassandra decided she wanted to officially get into the industry and began budtending at Urbn Leaf – and within the year she’s already been promoted to shift lead, but loves stepping out on the floor whenever she can. Helping people is her favorite part about the job. “I love recommending a product for a specific ailment,” Kassandra shared, “and then the customer comes back, maybe even that same day or week, to say it helped! They usually want more for themselves and for their family. That’s the best.” Kassandra assists patients with a variety of serious and chronic ailments. People come to the shop fresh out of the hospital from chemotherapy treatment in need of something to help with nausea. Mothers of children struggling with autism or seizures visit to find products that offer relief. It’s not surprising that customers seek out Kassandra for her guidance – she treats every patient as an individual and respects that each person has their own comfort zone and relationship to the plant. “Every person has a different need,” said Kassandra. “I always tell people you just have to find the right thing for you. People come in with horror stories, but I try to tell them that ‘unfortunately you tried something that wasn’t right for you.’ I try to help them find what is.” In addition to healing patients through budtending, Kassandra is motivated to have an even wider impact on the Cannabis space. In an industry dominated by men, Kassandra is thrilled to work in an environment like Urbn that has an initiative to hire and support people of all ethnicities. They are also starting to carry more women/equity owned brands like Potli and Kikoko, which offer recyclable or biodegradable packaging and are more conscious overall about equality and sustainability. “I always try to push those brands,” Rodruiguez commented. “Our team also encourages people to bring their bags back. The waste accumulates, especially for our regulars. We charge 50 cents for the bag, and people really bring them back! When they find out they can, they get excited about it.” Kassandra is thrilled to be a part of the movement, especially as she sees the impact her involvement has had on her own family and community. “Now my family is much more open to it [Cannabis]. My Grandma always asks me for my tincture whenever she comes over. She’ll say she doesn’t feel well, I know she really just wants some tincture.”
INTERVIEW by ALEXA JESSE @ALEXAJESSE/CALIFORNIA LEAF | PHOTOS by SANDY HUFFAKER @SANDY_HUFFAKER
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firstname.lastname@example.org (707) 476-0435 humboldtlandman.com
MELROSE A WORTHY MISSION
This ever-expanding operation is different from many of its corporate counterparts, in that their goal is to see the communities most impacted by the insidious War On Drugs bloom in the legal industry. Their mission statement is to hire local and inclusive, diverse team members, fund and commit to social equity programs, and carry brands owned and operated by BlPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks, as well as brands who share this mission of social change. Under its Sweet Flower Shares community investment program, the dispensary chain has “donated over $175,000 to local community organizations in Los Angeles, started a social equity program (working with Equity First Alliance and the Hood Incubator), operated expungement clinics with Cage Free Repair, appointed its executives to the boards of directors of Cannabis for Black Lives and the Black Cooperative Investment Fund, and started a program to support BIPOC-owned Cannabis companies throughout California.”
AN INVITING VIBE Many Cannabis stores these days have a goal of breaking the stigma of Cannabis by trying to turn their retail environments into that which resembles an Apple store. While this may seem cool to the new and unfamiliar consumer, those of us who have been around since before legalization remember a time when dispensaries had character and charm. Upon arriving at Sweet Flower on the iconic Melrose Avenue, I immediately noticed something special. The groovy ”Find Your HIGHway” window display, and the marigold and navy logo mural both create a fun and inviting street view, matching the caliber of the other high end Melrose shops. While its clean white walls, spacious sales floor, and minimalist vibe give the customer a sleek retail experience, this retailer still manages to feel warm and inviting. Inside, the natural light which pours in from the massive windows and skylights replaces the need for stark fluorescents. The unmistakable California beach vibes are reflected in the light wooden display cases, and the multitude of plants and greenery – especially the large tree which sits atop the flower display surrounded by a chic circular light – gives the store elements of nature and nods to the respect which should be given to Cannabis as a healing plant, and not just a commodity to be bought and sold. While the decor is incredible, the true decoration and radiance comes from the vibrant, colorful, aesthetically pleasing, high quality products that line the shelves.
Rewind to 2006, when Sweet Flower was founded as a medical collective in Los Angeles. Long before the new hip and trendy wave of Cannabis stores lined the streets of nearly every neighborhood in LA, Sweet Flower has been a community oriented collective prioritizing the needs of Cannabis patients for over a decade. Fast forward to 2018, Sweet Flower has expanded their deeply rooted mission, opening up multiple new locations in high profile areas of LA such as Melrose, The DTLA Arts District, Studio City and Westwood.
CURATED QUALITY Articulately organized by product type (edibles, flower, wellness, pre-rolls, etc.), the store offers a stress-free shopping experience. Unlike other dispensaries, the products on the shelves are not just for hype value. You can tell the buyers curate products based on quality, social equity, and commitment to elevating the Cannabis community as a whole. Compared to the industry average of 2%, 17% of the brands carried by Sweet Flower are BIPOC owned. Lifted Legacy, SF Rootz, Ball Family Farms, La Familia, Viola, Baby Jeeter, Dose of Saucy and Noir, just to name a few. As the industry grows, the store is committing to raising that percentage by supporting emerging BIPOC owned brands through their social equity programs and partnerships.
THE KNOWLEDGE BASE Another testament to their LA roots and commitment to industry representation is the staff, or “florists” as they are called at Sweet Flower. They employ 180 local team members, 80% of whom are African American or Latinx. The florists are incredibly knowledgeable about products, helpful with finding customers the perfect “HIGHway” for their needs, not to mention cheerful, kind and funny. This helpful and welcoming attitude is reflected in the management as well.
A COHESIVE EXPERIENCE Sweet Flower’s ambiance, product selection, staff and mission are a shining example of what California Cannabis can be. Whether you are a first-time customer or seasoned user, you will find yourself feeling great during and after your visit. Their ongoing commitment to elevating everyone who deserves to be in the legal industry is what Cannabis should really be about – healing, elevation and growth for all.
THEIR GOAL IS TO SEE THE COMMUNITIES MOST IMPACTED BY THE INSIDIOUS WAR ON DRUGS BLOOM IN THE LEGAL INDUSTRY.
SWEET FLOWER MELROSE 8163 MELROSE AVE., LOS ANGELES, CA
OPEN 8AM-10PM DAILY SWEETFLOWER.COM
REVIEW & PHOTOS by EMILY EIZEN @EMILYEIZEN for CALIFORNIA LEAF
edible of the month
Madame Munchie is a queer-owned edibles brand that specializes in bringing the zhuzh of Parisian macarons straight to your local dispensary. Their original and award-winning macarons (Best Edible at 2021 Weedcon) are sophisticated, fun, and pack a 40mg punch. in Los Angeles by 2019, where she and her all-female team operate from to this day. Madame Munchie Macarons pack all the flair of their Parisian counterparts. Each macaron is 40mg of full spectrum THC and available in a number of varieties. These include Divorce Cake, with white chocolate filling, vanilla beans and gold sprinkles, and Oreo/Cookie Dough, which comes stacked with chocolate chip cookie/Oreo crumbs and a white chocolate topping. Because these macarons are infused using raw material straight from their farm, instead of the kind of THC distillate used by most edible brands, they bring the entourage effect and have a full spectrum of cannabinoids showing up on the test results like CBN, CBG and so on. This
makes the high nuanced, sparkly, and a much closer experience to what the plant is trying to provide. MADAMEMUNCHIE.COM “We want to make @MADAMEMUNCHIE the simple act of 80mg THC/package Cannabis consumption 40mg THC/macaron an artful experience 10mg THC/serving in itself,” said Geraghty. “Consumers are looking for relief from These macarons are the mundane. Being special because they’re an adult is just being a full spectrum – made grown-up child, so we with coconut oil that’s really want our custombeen infused with flower ers to have some fun grown at Geraghty’s very with our edibles.” own Mendocino farm.
REVIEW by LINDSAY MaHARRY @_OYSTERGIRL_ for CALIFORNIA LEAF | PHOTO by TOM BOWERS @PROPAGATECONSULTANTS
wner Kim Geraghty grew up in Paris before moving back to the United States at 23, bringing with her the expertise to create the most exquisite infused macarons on the market. Aside from their serious dosage, top tier ingredients and delicious execution that’s as precise in texture as in flavor, these macarons are special because they’re full spectrum – made with coconut oil that’s been infused with flower grown at Geraghty’s very own Mendocino farm. Geraghty ran the first iteration of Madame Munchie from an out-of-service commercial kitchen in a senior retirement center. In 2017, Prop 64 and the new regulations shut them down to get new permits, which ultimately landed them
STRAIN OF THE MONTH
CAL I F O R N I A
B R E D BY G R AS S H O P P E R G E N E T I C S
On the heels of Oakland’s trailblazing Cannabis Equity Program, many newly licensed equity operators rallied together to cultivate strong networks of like-minded collaborators.
21.18% THC 25.25% TOTAL CANNABINOIDS
“This sticky, sweet flower sprouts from a legendary family tree.” REVIEW & PHOTO by TOM BOWERS @PROPAGATECONSULTANTS/CALIFORNIA LEAF
egi Simmons of Oakland’s Cloud9 Cannabis formed a collective called The Special Branch, along with Cloud9 partner DJ Clayton Whitaker. Together, they built a collaborative web with other equity operators that make up the supply chain on both ends of their 12,000-squarefoot indoor cultivation facility. This approach has significant benefits, such as access to limited genetics like this delectable new strain, African Sunset, which we at California Leaf had the pleasure of previewing for this year’s Equality Issue. Bred exclusively for cultivation by equity operators – in a collaboration by the Bay Area’s Grasshopper Genetics with equity cultivation and delivery company Osanyin – this sticky, sweet flower sprouts from a legendary family tree. They started off with Ghana, a rare landrace seed from the Ghana region of Africa, which they then crossed with Durban Poison – another legendary landrace sativa strain from the African continent. The male was then crossed with Purple Urkle, and then that male was crossed with Cherry Pie, and the resulting male was crossed with a female Gelato plant. The resulting slender, dense, frosted nugs emit overripe tropical fruit and mouthwatering berry notes over the top of a rich, earthy, chewy funk. The sweetness shines through on combustion, making for a phenomenally smooth, delicious experience from this sativa-dominant hybrid. These small-harvest releases will be available in exceedingly limited quantities in August and will also be a part of the Luna Roca (AKA moon rocks) line, released under the brand Vaya – the Latin-themed brand The Special Branch launched with Salvador Santana, son of guitar icon Carlos Santana. Keep your eye out for Cloud9’s African Sunset and other products from The Special Branch at your local equity-owned shops such as Oakland’s Blunts + Moore, and Eaze and Green Goddess delivery services. Everything we’ve sampled from Cloud9 thus far has been stellar, and the collective has become known for limited release lines like their Pride Packs Pre-Rolls, which they create in order to raise money for social equity causes.
the EQUALITY issue
WE REACHED OUT to dozens of members of the Cannabis industry from a diverse range of backgrounds to get their candid takes on important questions regarding equality and equity in the Cannabis space. We wanted to know what equality and equity mean to the people cultivating this community, what’s working, and, crucially, what needs to change for us to construct this industry in a way that benefits us all.
VOICES OF THE CANNABIS COMMUNITY CINDY DE LA VEGA “EQUITY IS BEING ESTABLISHED, HOWEVER IMPERFECT THE PROCESS MAY BE.”
CEO | STIIIZY | SAN FRANCISCO, CA
What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity?
I believe that the equity program is one way that equity is being established, however imperfect the process may be. Not only does the Office of Cannabis facilitate business licenses through the program, but also helps advocate for equity partners in challenging situations, such as with their investor partnerships. Another important piece is the work being done by grassroots organizations like the San Francisco Equity Group, which is a coalition of verified equity applicants who are also community leaders and advisors, including myself. We aim to improve and expand on the opportunity for as many equity applicants as possible, showing that the program can work, leading by example, and helping communities across the country secure ownership in the Cannabis industry. Ultimately, our goal is real ownership and sources of security for people most affected by the War on Drugs – not only themselves, but their families, communities and generations to come.
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? I’m pushing for equity, which is
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you?
a bit different from equality. Equality normally refers to everyone being treated the same, whereas equity is an effort to ensure those who have been held back get extra support – so that we all end up with the same ability to succeed. Equality doesn’t take history into context, and the history of Cannabis is one where some groups suffered legal consequences far more than others. People of color specifically, as well as cultivators of all colors, have been targeted for arrest, harassment, extortion, loss of their children and much more. In order to have a mutually supportive Cannabis industry, we must be pushing for equity over equality.
It means non-whites having more than less than 1% of ownership within the space. What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity? Honestly, not much,
because we aren’t in the rooms making the decisions.
FOUNDER | BLUNTS + MOORE OAKLAND, CA BLUNTSANDMOORE.COM
Can you give us an example of something equitable you’ve seen happen in the Cannabis space? Oakland creating
the equity program from the ideas of Keith Stephenson and championed by Desley Brooks. As a result of their efforts and my work, I became the first equity-owned retail brand in the world.
“AS A RESULT OF THEIR EFFORTS AND MY WORK, I BECAME THE FIRST EQUITYOWNED RETAIL BRAND IN THE WORLD.”
What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity? New states are
“EQUALITY DOESN’T TAKE HISTORY INTO CONTEXT, AND THE HISTORY OF CANNABIS IS ONE WHERE SOME GROUPS SUFFERED LEGAL CONSEQUENCES FAR MORE THAN OTHERS.”
state contribute significant funding ($50 million) in start-up capital for SEA to access. Places like Oakland are funding cooperative kitchens and using equity cohorts – groups of businesses as the foundation of how equity support is distributed. I think this model of state funding providing hard assets like buildings and equipment to groups of businesses that are mutually supportive, is the future of equity-first economics.
CO-FOUNDER | MINORITY CANNABIS including mandatory set asides of licenses for BUSINESS ASSOCIATION | equity applicants at a minimum of 50% of all HARTFORD, CT MINORITYCANNABIS.ORG licenses. Places like Connecticut are having the
What needs to change about the Cannabis industry as it relates to equality/equity?
The industry must recognize the circumstances of each individual. Be open to diversifying by creating opportunities for everyone. It would be amazing to see more minority-owned companies, farms, labs, dispensaries and other ancillary businesses. Entry into the Cannabis industry via growing, processing and owning a dispensary, needs to be more feasible. Banks and other financial institutions need to be open to accepting Cannabis companies as legitimate businesses, and provide loans and merchant transactions. We would like to see more people that have been incarcerated have an opportunity to be a part of the legal Cannabis industry.
FOUNDER & PRESIDENT | ARDENT LIFE, INC. BOSTON, MASS. ARDENTCANNABIS.COM Can you give us an example of something equitable you’ve seen happen in the Cannabis space? Timing of access is
really important. In Massachusetts, we have a three year window that is exclusive for economic empowerment and social equity delivery businesses. These exclusivity windows can help to give a more level playing field. Investment capital for equity businesses is also critical. Predatory loans are a big problem, so states that have enacted loan funds or give grants are doing the right thing to support equity entrepreneurs.
D-ROC PALMER OWNER | EXTREMETERPZ BALTIMORE, MD EXTREMETERPZCBD.COM
“THE MORE WE UNITE AS A PEOPLE, OUR VOICES ALONE CAN BE LOUD ENOUGH TO FORCE THE POLITICIANS TO CREATE CHANGE.”
DIRECTOR OF TALENT MANAGEMENT & DIVERSITY | CURALEAF | NEW YORK CITY CURALEAF.COM
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? A healthy, inclusive, well-regulated
Cannabis industry that provides for social, financial and environmental benefits shared by all. Equality in the Cannabis industry means to support “ALTHOUGH equal opportunity and provisions for communities impacted by the DECRIMINALIZATION War on Drugs, so there can be fair IS A POSITIVE START, and just opportunity to participate in the Cannabis industry. What needs to change about the Cannabis industry as it relates to equality/equity? Legislation! To bring about real change in this industry, it starts
with the laws that make it. Although decriminalization is a positive start, expungement of Cannabis crimes and employment for those individuals should not be negotiable. We believe individuals with low level Cannabis related offenses should not be shut out of the industry – and as a commitment to right the wrongs of prohibition – we are employing at least 10% of all our 2021 new hires from the directly impacted communities.
EXPUNGEMENT OF CANNABIS CRIMES AND EMPLOYMENT FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS SHOULD NOT BE NEGOTIABLE.”
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? [When] everyone
is given the same opportunities and tools to succeed. Be it investors, rules and regulations enforcement, workplace environment, or personnel-workforce impartiality – all the given variables of the Cannabis industry. Everyone has a seat at the table, and those voices are heard and matter. Look at medical versus recreational. Really the only thing that is similar, is the fact that rec businesses are allowed to operate at all. The evolution of the medical Cannabis industry is outpacing the rec industry in some states, and in others, rec is now in the forefront and the medical industry faces stagnation. When we see equity with both sides of these two entities, that’s a positive step in equality and uniformity. In doing so, a collective voice is spoken. Unity between the two creates a homeostatic relationship, rather than the ‘us and them’ environment as it currently stands.
CEO & CHEMIST | BABYLON COMPANY ANCHORAGE, AK @BABYLONCOMPANY_
“THE EVOLUTION OF THE MEDICAL CANNABIS INDUSTRY IS OUTPACING THE RECREATIONAL INDUSTRY...”
Most states are moving forward to create change within their communities. We need to understand that the laws and regulations are created by the people. The more we unite as a people, our voices alone can be loud enough to force the politicians to create change. People do not want to fight alone due to the years of fear-mongering around the plant, but with the unity of like-minded individuals, there is a great deal of power.
What challenges are facing the Cannabis industry in terms of equality and equity? The tsunami of corporate forces
that have entered or are attempting to influence Cannabis, both on the local and state levels, and on the national stage. These businesses are “THESE BUSINESSES concerned about their own profitability above all else and ARE CONCERNED aren’t concerned with righting ABOUT THEIR OWN the wrongs of prohibition – or PROFITABILITY ABOVE even allowing full freedoms, like home grow. They even ALL ELSE AND AREN’T attempt to co-opt the equity conversation, gaslighting CONCERNED WITH the public into thinking they RIGHTING THE WRONGS stand for equity. We have seen this happen time and OF PROHIBITION...” time again in Massachusetts, and the stakes are even higher when we consider federal legalization. It is also important for consumers to be aware and to care about the places they are spending their dollars. Creating a conscious Cannabis consumer base dedicated to supporting equity businesses will also be key.
Can you give an example of something equitable you’ve seen happen in the Cannabis space?
INTERVIEWS by TOM BOWERS @PROPAGATECONSULTANTS/LEAF NATION | ILLUSTRATION by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
the EQUALITY issue
VOICES OF THE CANNABIS COMMUNITY Continued
from previous page
“THE FACT THAT LESS THAN 5% OF ALL LICENSE HOLDERS ARE AFRICAN AMERICANS, AND EVEN LESS THAN THAT ARE FEMALE, IS A PROBLEM. ”
LORIEL ALEGRETE CEO & CO-FOUNDER | 40 TONS LOS ANGELES, CA 40TONS.CO
What needs to change about the Cannabis industry as it relates to equality/equity?
The changes need to begin at the top: the states who issue the licenses, the application process, and most of all, the taxes that are associated with holding Cannabis licenses. All of this needs to incorporate people of color. The fact that less than 5% of all license holders are African Americans, and even less than that are female, is a problem. Yet a majority of the people incarcerated over this same plant are Black and brown. This is what needs to change. Nothing in life is free and I completely understand that. … But we need access to the same starting points as everyone else. What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity? The industry is attempting to recognize
more POC within the space as the years pass. Social equity programs are designed to level out that playing field. I’d say the industry is attempting to get it right, but still has a long way to go.
What do equality and equity in the Cannabis industry mean to you?
We’re still fighting for both in totality. Equality is to have equal rights and access CO-FOUNDER to items – health care, food, schooling – CANNACLUSIVE NEW YORK CITY, NY based upon the damaging ramifications and the absurdity of racism. Equity is being CANNACLUSIVE.COM able to have invested interest that evolves into tangible and recognized, not only wealth – but credit, access and ownership of said involvement – in anything relating to industries that have been built off of the backs of BIPOC, Indigenous, melanated communities. In this case, speaking as a Black woman, I can say that equality is an item that I have never, ever seen, and more than likely will never see as an individual who is melanated, because of how deep and how far we think white supremacy has gone in this country. Not only has it divided us in race, it’s divided us across gender, it’s divided us across ethnicity, it’s divided us across so many levels within our own communities – whether we’re white or not white, to where it’s just an automatic, horrible instrument of discord, dissension, hate, anger “EQUITY IS THE ITEM and misunderstanding. Equity is the THAT I STILL HAVE item that I still have to beg, plead and fight for in terms of access, influence TO BEG, PLEAD AND and total erasure that I have to bring FIGHT FOR IN TERMS OF up, in terms of … said items that have been built off of my likeness, my ACCESS, INFLUENCE culture and my imprisonment. When AND TOTAL ERASURE...” we talk about Cannabis, that is that.
ROBIN ABLEDAUGHTER & CHAOS GIBBONS CO-FOUNDERS THE FARMACEUTICALS COMPANY | SAN RAFAEL, CA THEFARMACEUTICALSCOMPANY.COM
What challenges are facing the Cannabis community with regards to equality/equity? As a queer
women-owned company, we have certainly experienced our share of inequality in this industry. The California Cannabis industry shifted a lot after legalization – it became corporate, and for lack of a better word, more “bro-y.” Since then, we’ve struggled with tamping down our queerness and trying to hide it. Would people buy our products if they knew we are “WOULD queer owned? Would we survive PEOPLE BUY as a company? OUR PRODUCTS In the end, we just had to be IF THEY KNEW unapologetically WE ARE QUEER who we are. OWNED? WOULD There’s nothing else to be. Part WE SURVIVE AS of the reason we’re able A COMPANY?” to do that is because, like all identity politics, it’s about intersection. Although we are queer, we are two white women and so we have white privilege. We know that while large Cannabis corporations (run predominantly by cis white men) are getting investments and bringing in huge profits, there are still thousands of people of color incarcerated for Cannabisrelated offenses. Black people in particular are disproportionately targeted and jailed for Cannabis-only offenses at an astounding rate. What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? To us, equality
and equity would look like white-owned Cannabis companies giving back to communities of color. We’d like everyone in the Cannabis industry with white privilege to join us in asking: How can we use our privilege to help lift up others? … We have a chance here to make things better, to create a more equitable industry and a more equitable world. And we believe firmly that by joining together, we can really make an impact.
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? I honestly
don’t hear the term equality used in this industry. To me, equality in the Cannabis industry is a difficult concept to grasp, as we’re talking about a profit incentivized capitalist environment where MSOs are rewarded for influencing the obliteration of small FOUNDER business within the GW SMOKEBREAK TV Cannabis industry. HUMBOLDT, CA There is nothing equal @GWSMOKEBREAKTV about this industry, nor in the world of fast-paced American business. Equality in the Cannabis industry means understanding that the plant is the equalizer. Marijuana culture is in fact about inclusivity “MARIJUANA and equality. I’ll never forget the CULTURE IS IN FACT words of Pam Lane Sohum from ABOUT INCLUSIVITY SoHum Royal Farms when she said, “In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was AND EQUALITY.” all about sitting in a circle, deseeding your bud, rolling a joint and passing it around.” There’s something about that imagery that clearly defines equality as it pertains to authentic California Cannabis culture. Our industry can become a true pillar for social change and the values we hold dear via our products, branding and messaging. This is the power of the plant, the almighty equalizer.
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you?
MIKE MCINTYRE FOUNDER | ESKIMO FIRE BETHEL, AK @ESKIMOFIRE
“IN THESE OUTER COMMUNITIES, IT’S NOT CANNABIS – IT’S WEED.”
Equality means equal access to Cannabis for everyone. While you enjoy your easy access to this resource, the people in very rural areas are still unable to access it, even though it is fully legal. In these outer communities, it’s not Cannabis – it’s weed. It even gets confiscated when they find it on you. I am just here to point out the obvious. Everything aside, I try to do my best to have passion for what I do. I have the love for what I do and my iluqs (Yup’ik translation: Male First Cousins) love it too. Just imagine sitting in a village out in the boonies smoking Triangle Mints #23. What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity? I’ve seen Black entrepreneurs get some help through
an equity system, and they were getting somewhere. It made me feel good for somebody to rise above. I just wish there was something like that here. I have also seen a lot of inequity – too much business crawling into somewhere it shouldn’t be.
OWNER SANCTUARY FARMS YUBA CITY, CA What challenges are facing the Cannabis industry in terms of equality and equity? One of the most obvious obstacles
LGBTQ CANNABIS ADVOCATE | FOUNDER THE FULL SPECTRUM | SEATTLE, WA
MARIE MONTMARQUET CO-FOUNDER MD NUMBERS, INC. SALINAS, CA
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you? Equality in
Cannabis means replicating the legacy market into the compliant Cannabis market – giving those who have been over-persecuted and who have risked their lives to consume and distribute Cannabis for decades, the chance to do so legally. The same politics that supported “THERE ARE STILL arresting minorities has yet to put that same vigor behind social justice. OVER 40,000 What needs to change about the Cannabis industry as it relates to equality/equity? Right now, Cannabis
PEOPLE CURRENTLY INCARCERATED FOR CANNABIS CHARGES.”
in the United States of America is only for the privileged. There are still over 40,000 people currently incarcerated for Cannabis charges. And it is still used as a war on minorities throughout this country. Compliant Cannabis has turned into a local and state cash grab. There’s no compassion for small business or legacy operators. The barriers to enter the compliant space are nearly impossible for those who have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.
Can you give us an example of something equitable you’ve seen happen in the Cannabis space? I’m seeing
more and more expungement fairs happening, which is fantastic! Auto-expungements are happening in a lot of the newer states that are legalizing as well, and a lot are also creating equity programs for “THERE IS A HUGE license distribution from the start – instead of trying to fix LACK OF HUMAN something that was forgotten RESOURCES. A NEW about initially.
INDUSTRY MEANS THAT EVERY BUSINESS IS A STARTUP.”
What challenges are facing the Cannabis industry in terms of equality and equity? Washington was one
of the first states to legalize Cannabis, and made a lot of missteps when it came to ensuring an equitable playing field. We’ve already issued our licenses, before making sure they would be distributed fairly and equitably. Now we’re trying to be more intentional as licenses get redistributed. There is a huge lack of human resources. A new industry means that every business is a startup. Not every business has policies or protections in place for their employees. Not every business is a safe place for a minority to thrive. We have an inconsistent patchwork of how we’re handling criminality and expungement – it’s harder to be effective when there are so many independent movements and challenges. We need a bit more awareness, compassion, and cohesion to truly impact equality and equity in the industry.
in the way of reaching equity in the Cannabis industry lies with the federal scheduling and prohibition. Federally legalizing, or at least descheduling, would allow us to operate much like existing companies who produce medicinal and recreational products. This inhibits our access to banking. Although it is possible to get banking for a Cannabis business, we are subject to exorbitant monthly fees that make it almost impossible for a small farmer to maintain. Small farmers face a number of local and state challenges as well. The most glaring example of inequity lies in the ability for each county to develop their own ordinance, instead of following a statewide set of rules. This way, farmers in some counties are “SMALL FARMERS limited to 10,000 FACE A NUMBER OF square feet of LOCAL AND STATE cultivation (or less), while other CHALLENGES counties allow AS WELL.” for the state's full four acres. This makes it difficult to compete with farms allowed to cultivate 15 times (or more) our square footage. We also encounter a disparity between the state granting us the right to do business, and the counties holding us back with long, drawn out and limiting processes. All of this is compounded by the multitude of fees, price gouging when Cannabis is mentioned, and the expectation of funds up front before product sales … issues that our wealthy, well-funded counterparts have no trouble with. … there must be a shift away from money outweighing knowledge and experience. This would open the doors for those of us who intend to supply the market with quality.
INTERVIEWS by TOM BOWERS @PROPAGATECONSULTANTS/LEAF NATION | ILLUSTRATION by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
the EQUALITY issue
“PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE USE CANNABIS.” -AL HARRINGTON
Harrington retired from the NBA in 2014 and founded The Harrington Group, launching the successful Viola Brands among other Cannabis businesses.
After 16 years playing in the NBA, Al Harrington found Cannabis and became a powerful voice for the plant.
STORY by BAXSEN PAINE @BAXSENPAINE for LEAF NATION | PHOTO by TERON BEAL @TERONBEAL
hen the news broke in July that U.S. track star Sha’Carri Richardson would be banned from the 2021 Olympics after testing positive for Cannabis, Al Harrington just shook his head.
“I thought it was bullshit,” the retired NBA veteran said of Richardson, who admitted to medicating to cope with the recent death of her mother. Never one to mince words, the 41-year-old overcame enough adversity during his 16-year career, which included stops in seven different cities to learn there are a variety of ways to combat pain – and not all are good. By the end of his athletic journey, Harrington found himself hooked on a thrice-daily dose of painkillers to battle chronic inflammation stemming from a variety of operations on his back and knee. “In Denver, I had a botched knee surgery – the team doctors sort of screwed me,” he said. “I had a picc line in my arm and I was on all these medications. I felt horrible. My business partner Chloe came to see me and suggested I try CBD. I put some on and my legs started feeling better, my elbow started feeling better.” Harrington left the league in 2014 and hasn’t taken a pharmaceutical drug since. During that time, he has used his influence to become a leading voice in the fight for medical Cannabis,
creating The Harrington Group – an organization that includes a trio of Cannabis enterprises that operate in six states (Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, California, Arizona and Nevada). Viola Brands was the first of his creations, originating in 2011. The brainchild of his grandmother, Viola – a sweet, church-loving lady who struggled with chronic pain stemming from glaucoma and diabetes. Al convinced a then 79-yearold Viola to use CBD, improving the quality of her golden years. “For someone like my grandmother to try it and have it work – for how religious she was, and growing up in the 1930s when prohibition started – it really spoke volumes to me,” the New Jersey native said. Breaking the social stigma that surrounds medical Cannabis is difficult, especially within an African American household, Harrington said. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward grew up during the height of the “Just Say No” era, where stop-and-frisk policies regularly placed young Black and brown men in jail for possession of marijuana. Becoming a daily consumer was hard enough, nevermind a business mogul. “People from the Black community really have a form of PTSD with how [Cannabis] has affected their community,” Harrington said, noting a high number of arrests in the city of Orange where he was raised. “Growing up, it was drilled into
our heads that it was a gateway drug. My grandma used to kick my aunts and uncles out of the house for smoking, and my mom used to get into it with my stepfather about it, too. I was scared that I’d get into something bigger.” Two seasons in Denver changed Harrington’s perspective, including his final year when public support allowed Colorado to become the first state in the nation to legalize recreational Cannabis in 2012. “I was seeing people walk out of stores with weed and I was like, ‘Oh shit, you can do this?’” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be right now if I hadn’t been there at that time. I’d probably be coaching basketball somewhere or playing golf.” He sees the creation of The Harrington Group as an opportunity to create generational wealth and open up opportunities inside communities of color. Last year, the company rolled out Viola Cares, a philanthropic initiative which aims to help formerly incarcerated people transition back into society. Harrington made waves by claiming it was the mission of Viola Brands to turn 100 Black individuals into millionaires over the next few years. “Now I can’t just give a million dollars out to people,” he smiled, admitting the line may have been taken too literally. “It’s about finding people with ambitions and the visions of an entrepreneur. Then we can tap into resources and fund their opportunities. We’re a high-quality brand, but we also want to use that recognition to bring people of color into this industry and make them successful. We want to be able to inspire economic empowerment and lift each other up.” Sports, he says, will continue to be a vessel that drives his entrepreneurship, as well as advocacy on behalf of new and current patients. Harrington remains in close contact with the National Basketball Players Association in hopes of educating players on the benefits of CBD, as well as the pitfalls of painkillers. “For me, that’s the easiest to use,” the 1998 firstround draft pick said. “One thing we don’t realize is that the same way we all eat food, the same way we all listen to music – people from all walks of life use Cannabis.” Even world-class athletes like Sha’Carri Richardson. “The [International Olympic Committee] is going to have to reevaluate the way they do things,” he said. “In the U.S., we lead everything. Here, you see the way professional leagues have taken it off the list, or turned their back on testing for it. It’s become a very common thing to do.” “Is anybody thinking it made her faster?” he laughed. “It’s nonsense, but hopefully it shines a big enough spotlight on this to make a change.”
LAST YEAR, THE COMPANY ROLLED OUT VIOLA CARES, A PHILANTHROPIC INITIATIVE WHICH AIMS TO HELP FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE TRANSITION BACK INTO SOCIETY.
the EQUALITY issue
Cannabis Chef & Cookbook Author Mary J. White, at home in Seattle, WA. Photo by Daniel Berman @bermanphotos
GRASS CEILING PROFILES OF WOMEN IN CANNABIS IN 1968, an intrepid teenager named Mary White
began her first forays into Cannabis. Not one for drinking, White discovered that taking on what she calls “mild happy weed” was enough to keep her in fashion without the side effects of hellish hangovers. Like many teenagers, her consumption was sporadic throughout high school and further waned as she reached her 20s and 30s. “I enjoyed Cannabis, but it wasn’t something that I thought about much. It was kind of just something you do at parties when you’re young. I never thought I’d end up working with it,” explains White. Little did she know, 16 years after her first toke, Cannabis would be her ticket out of bankruptcy. “It’s a horrible, long story, but basically I got really sick and had no insurance in 1984. I was in dire straits and needed money, so I reached out to some people I knew who were operating illegal grow houses in Seattle,” says White. “I didn’t sell it; I just took care of the plants, but that helped lift me out of bankruptcy, and I was able to buy a house.” At the time, White says she felt empowered and strong despite being the token female within the grow operation. She loved taking care of the plants and often referred to them as her babies. Illegality aside, White had found herself in the kind of self-sufficient position that still eludes many working women today. “I was happy and I felt secure, but now looking back at it, I was the only woman – and I did kind of get forced out of a job as soon as there was a man who could do my job. It’s funny how you don’t think about that kind of stuff when it’s happening,” says White. Sadly, White is one part of a pervasive narrative that still exists within today’s legal market. Despite being a small business owner and published author, White says that feeling like an outsider is part and parcel of being a woman in the industry. “I am teaching cooking classes, which is traditionally thought of as a woman’s job, but there are a lot of times I feel really out of place. I’m already older than most of the people I work alongside in the industry, and then I am a woman on top of that. So sometimes I wonder if I’m not just some weirdo lady hanging around with the guys,” explains White. A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY According to a 2017 study by MJBiz Daily, women occupy roughly 36-percent of executive positions within the industry.
Caroline Frankel, Owner of Caroline’s Cannabis, Masachussett’s first recreational dispensary. Photo by MacNeil Media Group
So why, if every piece of Cannabis we consume is female, are women taking a backseat to their male colleagues? MJBiz Daily suggests that the recurring issue preventing women from entering the industry is a lack of access to capital. The amount of money needed to start a Cannabis business can easily surpass six figures, and the networks of investors that can provide that amount of money – high-net-worth individuals and venture capital firms – can be difficult for women to access. Additionally, women-owned businesses often receive less funding and fewer resources than their male counterparts. It’s something that Caroline Frankel has experienced first-hand. Massachusetts’ first recreational dispensary owner, Frankel, spent years scraping together $300,000 of her own money to open her Uxbridge store. “You really don’t hear about women self-funding their marijuana business, and it’s something I’m proud of,” says Frankel.
STORY by O’HARA SHIPE @SHIPESHOTS/LEAF NATION
the EQUALITY issue
BREAKING THE GRASS CEILING PROFILES OF WOMEN IN CANNABIS Continued from previous page
Autumn Brands Co-Owner & CFO Autumn Shelton, left, and Co-Founder Hannah Brand, in Santa Barbara, CA. Photo by Autumn Brands
stay-at-home-mother, Frankel says she would put her three children to bed and retire to her basement, where she spent hours following the legalization process as it moved from the West Coast to New England. Putting her business degree from Johnson and Wales University to good use, Frankel developed a comprehensive business plan for her dream dispensary. She also navigated the licensing process mainly on her own. “When the state was ready for general applicants like myself, I was ready to go. I actually ended up being the first general applicant in Massachusetts,” says Frankel. In early April 2020, Frankel opened Caroline’s Cannabis, and she now has plans to expand to a second location. However, Frankel’s success has been somewhat tempered by the response she has received from other mothers within her community. “Of course, my kids love me regardless. But with other moms, I definitely felt like I was being judged a little bit for not only being someone who
uses Cannabis, but then also being someone making a living in it as well. It was always the other parents or the people in my community that I felt judged me a little bit more than anyone else,” says Frankel. JUMPING HIGHER HURDLES Canadian physicist Donna Strickland famously received a Nobel Prize before being promoted to full professorship at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada in 2018. Some claimed that Strickland’s experience is the quintessential example of women being held to impossible standards within the workplace. However, Strickland eschews such notions and says that she didn’t receive a promotion because she never asked. Strickland’s story resonated with many women who said that they often feel that they need to do more and jump higher hurdles than their male counterparts to prove their worth in the workplace. Unfortunately, the Cannabis industry isn’t exempt. “I totally have always felt that I’ve had to work
harder because Cannabis is a male-dominated field. Even from the municipality and licensing standpoint, I was spending a lot of time rehearsing my presentations and investing money into making them look better than anyone else’s. I always felt like I had to compete more,” Frankel explains. Some feelings of inadequacy might be understandable in Frankel’s case, as she was cutting a new path for women-owned dispensaries in a newly legalized state. But the pervasive bias that White felt 30 years ago is the same one that women in the industry continue to butt up against. As a former ice hockey goaltender, Oregonian Megan Hunt is used to being the only woman among a sea of men, so she felt at home when she entered the industry as a trimmer in 2018. At the time, Hunt had several female coworkers trimming alongside her, but as her ambitions to rise within the ranks took hold, she began to realize that her perception of gender equality had been somewhat skewed. “There are women that do trimming, produc-
Tao Gardens’ Director of Propagation, Megan Hunt, in Eugene, OR. Photo by Tao Gardens
tion or processing, but I don’t really see a ton of women growing. I feel like there has to be a ton out there, but just in my personal experience, I haven’t really worked with a lot of other female growers. I’ve learned almost everything from male growers,” explains Hunt. Although Hunt says her male mentors and colleagues have always treated her with respect, she still experienced pushback when she expressed her desire to take on a leadership position within the grow operation. “I definitely feel like there’s a period of time where you have to prove yourself in any position, but I do think you end up getting undermined a lot more in fields that are predominantly male. You have to prove yourself and let them know, ‘Hey, I know my shit. I can grow and I can do everything you can do. Including lifting a five-gallon bucket of water.’ Once you get through that, it’s usually pretty smooth sailing,” says Hunt. SHIFTING THE NARRATIVE While Hunt has cemented her place in the industry as Tao Gardens’ Director of Propagation, she remains part of an exclusive club of women who have broken through the proverbial glass ceiling. “I mean, it’s … it’s kind of confusing to me because I know that a lot of women are into plants and love biology and healing with herbal medicine. And so, it’s kind of a perplexing question to me as to why more women aren’t taking those leadership positions or just growing in general,” says Hunt. One theory is that there remains a stigma around female Cannabis consumption. Currently, male consumers make up nearly three-quarters of the recreational market. As was the case with Frankel, the notion of being a woman and mother
are so tied together that society struggles to “When I was seven or eight, separate the two. So, when a stay-at-homeI had a childhood friend who mom decides to open a dispensary, it seems saw her parents get arrested for shocking in a way that it would not be, had marijuana possession. I rememMARYJWHITE.COM it been a stay-at-home-father. ber it being weird to me – here CAROLINESCANNABIS.COM “I think [the Cannabis industry] can be was this perfect family that was so TAOGARDENS.COM a little daunting. Cannabis has still been a happy and healthy and took care AUTUMNBRANDS.COM stigma for so long, so I think women may of their kids, and took care of me JDWCOUNSEL.COM still be a little hesitant about it. For womwhen I stayed with them – getting en, it’s still high risk because it’s federally ripped apart by the cops. After illegal. So, you just might not have those that, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, and I had no other women executives that want to take that intentions of doing anything else,” says Weltzin. risk at this time,” explains Autumn Brands The founding member of JDW Counsel in AnchorCo-owner and CFO Autumn Shelton. age, Weltzin focuses her legal practice on land use and One of California’s first women-owned zoning law, recreational marijuana business law, and Cannabis businesses, Autumn Brands regulation compliance in Alaska. A staunch advocate has made it their mission to bring more for the industry, she was instrumental in working with women into the industry and destigmatize the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation to female Cannabis use. According to Shelhelp launch Alaska’s recreational market in 2015. ton, achieving their goals comes down to Over the last six years, Weltzin has established herself re-branding. as a powerhouse Cannabis attorney, but she is quick to “Women traditionally are the ones that give credit to the female mentors who helped pave the make decisions for health and wellness for way for her. themselves and for their families, and they “I learned from my mentor Jordan Rose. Especially are really dedicated to that. So when we when it comes to my dealings with men, I remember think about Cannabis, we think about it as she would always tell me to be realistic about what a a health and wellness product. And that exman’s priorities are with you. You want to get the most tends to our packaging and our branding,” you can out of the relationship without ever comprosays Shelton. mising your own values and your own beliefs. So, you A mother and Cannabis consumer, have to be okay with their reaction when you set a hard Shelton understands the importance of shifting the line,” says Weltzin. stoner narrative that has been perpetuated by pop Known for her direct, firm communication, Weltzin culture. ruffled some feathers when she be“It’s about normalizing gan carving out space for herself. Cannabis in the way a glass “I think that men came in with of wine has been. I think the a different expectation and maybe perception is that all pot conthought that I couldn’t handle getsumers are getting super high ting certain code amendments, but on bong rips, and that needs I did. Some thought that I couldn’t to change. Of course, when I handle getting certain approvals was younger, I used to do that done, but I’ve gotten every single – but I am a mom now, and necessary approval out there for that has shifted how I think marijuana shops. I think it took about Cannabis. Now, all I me showing them that I can do it; need is a few hits of a joint, I’m not just this little girl trying to and it allows me to get out of make it in a big man’s world,” says my head and release tension Weltzin. so I can come back and be While Weltzin has played the ready to be a mom again,” game, she is adamant that she explains Shelton. should not have had to clear extra Even though Shelton is professional hurdles simply because fighting for the normalization she is a woman. of not only female Cannabis “What are we not hearing collecuse, but women occupying tively as a society? Why are things JDW Counsel Founder Jana Weltzin, space in the industry, she tone-deaf when women speak a Cannabis attorney in Anchorage, AK. admits that it can be difficult and not when men speak next? I Photo by Chris Owens @owensneversleeps finding a balance. don’t know if that’s a ‘man issue,’ “It can be confusing when you’re a parent, though. I think it might be more of a societal issue that because on one hand society says that Cannabis is needs to be corrected,” says Weltzin. something that is not good, and on the other hand, So, how does the Cannabis industry become a your child is wondering why you would work in a shining example of equality for women? On this matter, business that is surrounded by it,” says Shelton. Weltzin, Hunt, White, Frankel and Shelton agree. “We have to step up and have each other’s back. CREATING THEIR OWN SPACE Men have been doing that for decades and decades, The struggle to reconcile years of cultural proand as women, we haven’t. We’re conditioned not to gramming with the reality of Cannabis as medilike each other; we are conditioned to be competitive cine is something that Alaskan Jana Weltzin was with each other. The reality is that we shouldn’t be confronted with at a very young age, and it ended competing with each other. We have to be the ones to up shaping her life. say where our place is,” says Weltzin.
STORY by O’HARA SHIPE @SHIPESHOTS/LEAF NATION
the EQUALITY issue
T S I
FIGHTING FOR A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
It took a few years, but the New York legislature finally passed a recreational Cannabis bill. Tell us a bit about your efforts to bring a legal marijuana industry to the Empire State.
For the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Start SMART New York, a group that was convened by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Start SMART was instrumental in passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), earlier this year in New York. I’m licensed to practice in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Illinois – and I was able to draw upon my experiences across a wide variety of states. And through experiences in states with different programs, I had some things to say about the way New York’s program was rolled out – particularly because I saw some real shortcomings in other states. Through testifying to members of the NYS legislature about my experiences and how different regulations worked and drafting suggestions to NYS’ legislation, it’s been really exciting to participate in the creation of New York’s new law.
CRISTINA BUCCOLA is a New York-based Cannabis attorney, advisor and advocate. Most recently, Cristina offered guidance on legalization to NY legislators based on her extensive experience with regulated and inclusive marijuana programs. She sat down with The Leaf to update us on her state’s new laws and the progress of social equity across the legal Cannabis states. AUG. 2021
How has the state’s program rollout gone so far? The law calls for an Office of Cannabis
Management (OCM), which is yet to be formed, in order to set the rules around home grow. And in addition to the OCM, we also need the Cannabis Control Board, which is a five-person board, to be formed. And these two bodies, along with an advisory committee, will develop and establish many of New York State’s rules and regulations. I cannot overstate the importance of these regulatory bodies and boards to the overall rollout of the program. So much hinges, not only on what they say, but when they’re actually formed. Social equity is a major component of New York’s Cannabis law. Before we get into the specifics of the program, could you explain generally what social equity is intended to accomplish? Social equity is intended to
look at structural issues of giving people access to Cannabis. It identifies those communities who have suffered the most due to the War on Drugs, and gives those individuals an opportunity to participate in the new Cannabis industry. Is that the same thing as community reinvestment? No. It’s important to draw a
distinction here. Community reinvestment is a concept that runs alongside of social equity, but it isn’t the same thing. Community reinvestment takes into account that, while Cannabis is now a completely legal industry, through prohibition, there was literally a war waged against certain communities, and they should be able to benefit from the tax revenue generated by newly legal Cannabis – even if they don’t want to participate in the industry. And so when we talk about social equity in most circles, it means helping those individuals that have been impacted by the War on Drugs, those who have been marginalized and haven’t been represented in business, and putting them forth and encouraging these individuals to participate in the new Cannabis industry. Whereas community reinvestment has everything to do with tax revenue and is not necessarily Cannabis oriented. So members of the community might be getting training for a job they want, or they might be getting healthcare services for their family. Essentially, the funds are from Cannabis, but their output isn’t. When it comes to the people who have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition, those who are interested should absolutely have access to the industry. But those who aren’t interested should still be able to benefit from funds raised through the new law. And how does New York’s Cannabis law address social equity and community reinvestment? One of the things that really
sets New York apart – actually there are several things that really set New York apart – is the state created a community reinvestment fund that
allocates 40% of the Cannabis tax revenue to services for impacted communities. And that is huge. The other thing that’s incredibly interesting is that New York has set a target of issuing 50% of its licenses to social equity applicants. Who does that include? That group of people
includes individuals from minority communities, disadvantaged farmers, disabled veterans and women. And in New York, people who come from communities that have been disproportionately impacted, if they have been incarcerated or they have a family member who was, there will be extra priority given to those applications. What can qualified applicants expect from the new program? Social equity applicants
should see reduced licensing fees, priority licensing, access to business services, low interest loans and business grants. Who is making these decisions in New York? The law calls
for a director of social equity who works in the Office of Cannabis Management. And that person, who is yet to be identified, is going to be extraordinarily important in developing the equity program. How else does New York stand out in regard to equity? In
to operate a license. It’s still expensive to be in Cannabis. Particularly when you take into consideration things like real estate in New York and labor in New York. And even the best laid equity programs and incubation programs are not going to get around the fact that funding is needed. But identifying licenses where people need less capital to get involved is going to be crucial. Is there a specific license type you’d like to see the state embrace? New York is about
experiences, and in NYC where I live, nightlife and parties. And one of the things that did not make it into the MRTA, but I really hope comes up in regulation, is an event permit. This could be helpful because you don’t necessarily need a building, which is incredibly expensive in New York. An event permit could bring a lot of creativity to the industry, and could provide individuals a way to participate that isn’t crippling as far as capital is concerned.
“WHEN IT COMES TO THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY MARIJUANA PROHIBITION, THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED SHOULD ABSOLUTELY HAVE ACCESS TO THE INDUSTRY.”
many other states we’ve seen that only the most moneyed players can really participate, because vertical integration is either required or is allowed. But New York takes some really affirmative steps to break up that chain. So the way the licenses work – essentially, New York makes you pick a lane. Are you going to have a shop and sell to the community? Or are you going to do things behind the scenes? You can’t do both. So vertical integration is not allowed?
Right. Unless you have a microbusiness license. Microbusinesses will be able to operate in a vertically integrated manner. And so will the 10 existing medical providers under New York’s program. But they will have to go through some kind of step, whether it’s an auction or a licensing fee, to participate in a vertically integrated manner. And the money from that will be used to fund equity programs, which is great. And, in making businesses choose a lane, New York is opening up opportunities for a variety of different people – because you don’t need a hundred million dollars just to start a business. Now, that being said, it’s still really expensive
Does New York’s law allow for expungement?
NYS has had automatic expungement for certain low level cannabis offenses since 2019. After the law was passed this March, additional possession and low level sale offenses are now eligible for automatic expungement, as now it’s legal to have up to 3oz of flower, 24g of concentrate.
New York is one of five states that passed legal Cannabis legislation so far this year. New Mexico also legalized marijuana in 2021. However, lawmakers there have a different attitude about equity. New Mexico’s governor has been outspoken about passing an equity bill separately from the legalization law. Do you believe that is a wise approach?
Not if you want equity. I mean, if you want equity, you fight for it. You fight for what you want. And then maybe you settle on something, but you don’t go out of the gate folding your hand. Legalization and equity go hand-in-hand. And I think that if you don’t demand equity from the jump, you don’t get it. I think other states have shown us how difficult it is to claw back equity and develop equity programs when they’re not there from the inception. So, I think taking them separately is a very scary proposition if you are pro justice.
STORY by MIKE GIANAKOS @MIKEGEEZEEY/LEAF NATION | ILLUSTRATION by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
the EQUALITY issue
MINORITY-LED CANNABIS ORGANIZATIONS What do you do when there’s nowhere to turn for more information about the Cannabis industry and the vast majority of the people you see succeeding in it look very different from you? If you’re Ophelia Chong, Javier Armas or Sheena Roberson, you start your own organization and become the change.
Photo by Zach Anderson @tthezachanderson
ASIAN AMERICANS FOR CANNABIS EDUCATION FOUNDER OPHELIA CHONG
CHONG RECENTLY HOSTED A ROOM ON CLUBHOUSE WHERE SHE BROUGHT WOMEN AT THE C-SUITE LEVEL IN CANNABIS TO ANSWER QUESTIONS FROM YOUNGER WOMEN LOOKING TO GET INVOLVED. AUG. 2021
phelia Chong created Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE) in 2016 - a natural next step after her first project, Stock Pot Images, took off right away. That concept itself was a response to Chong’s dismay that none of the popular stock image repositories were offering options of ethnic people using Cannabis, unless it was as a stereotype or propaganda. “That’s why we created the largest collection in the world: 30,000 images from over 240 photographers portraying Cannabis as it is,” Chong explained. “I partnered with Adobe for that. With that project, I also noticed that there was a dearth of information for Asian Americans and the AAPI community.” Chong’s answer is AACE, which is all about pushing the AAPI community forward in the Cannabis industry. Started by Chong and two co-founders, she eventually found herself as the sole person in charge. One of AACE’s primary offerings are the rich, engaging interviews Chong conducts with everyone from CEOs to doctors, grad students and C-suite executives. Recent guests include Connie Lee, who put together Yale Business School’s first Cannabis conference in 2016, CEO of Leafly Yoko Miyashita, and CEO of Papa & Barkley Evelyn Wang. According to Chong, long-lasting prejudices held by some in the AAPI community initially made it difficult to book guests for AACE. “At the beginning,” she said, “it was very hard to get people for interviews. Some of them even asked me to take down their interviews because they didn’t want their parents to know. They panicked. However, in the last year, things are changing to where now, people are asking to be interviewed!” Another aspect of AACE is networking. Chong recently hosted a room on Clubhouse where she brought women at the C-suite level in Cannabis to answer questions from younger women looking to get involved. Though she’s rightfully pleased with the progress AACE has already made, she also lamented how hard the process can be when one is expected to be an agent for change, while also remaining a shining example for others. “It’s hard to be a minority that stands out because you have to be the good one,” Chong explained. “We have to walk a very fine line. We are also a small percentage of the general population – and one that’s mostly concentrated on the coasts as well – so when we’re in an industry like Cannabis, we are very visible.” Chong celebrated that visibility as a stepping stone to true normalization. “We have two female [AAPI] CEOs: one at Leafly and one at Papa & Barkley’s. That’s pretty amazing. I think we’re just normalizing, where, after a while, it just won’t be interesting anymore.” ASIANAMERICANSFORCANNABIS.ORG
Photo by Cannabis Noire @cannabis_noire
CANNABIS NOIRE FOUNDER SHEENA ROBERSON
hen Sheena Roberson was invited to attend a Cannabis convention in Philadelphia, her first question was why she had not heard about it sooner. “I’m pretty well-connected in the city,” Roberson shared. “I’ve done a lot of work with different social justice groups and social service work around nonprofits. I’ve done a lot of grant writing and my background is in marketing – I was a sales and mar-
avier Armas takes a lot of pride in his role as a leader for the Bay Area Latino Cannabis Alliance (BALCA). Owner of Oakland equity Cannabis microbusiness Javier’s Organics, Armas told Leaf that BALCA was the result of informal potlucks and a shared desire for central resources for Latino Cannabis professionals in the Bay Area. “People started hitting each other up organically, through their networks, and that led to organic potlucks,” Armas said. “We had a few of them and we developed a certain crowd – like a lot of friends of friends and people connected on Instagram.” It was at that point that Armas and others in his network decided it was time to formalize their efforts. After struggling for most of 2020 to get things going in spite of the pandemic, BALCA solidified their intentions into a five-pillar plan: education, professional development, business ownership, civil rights and culture. One of BALCA’s first actions was to launch a bilingual newsletter. “It’s the very first bilingual Cannabis newsletter in the country,” Armas added, “and it’s been doing very well. We also printed out the newsletter and distributed it to budtenders. That caught a lot of attention and a lot of support too.” Emphasizing the importance of BALCA’s leadership coming from actual Bay Area equity permit holders, Armas noted that while he can speak to Oakland, they also have Daniel Montero holding down San Jose with GW Smoke Break.
keting director for Chik-fil-A – but needless to say, I know what’s going on. If there’s something happening at the convention center in my city, most likely, I know about it.” Roberson, very eager to learn more, attended. Once there, she quickly realized that this was not a convention, but a conference. Still intrigued, she began to walk around and listen to the various panels and speakers. “I was finding rooms where folks were talking about Cannabis marketing and medical marijuana and doing legislative workshops. There were all these groups and all of them were talking about the ‘emerging Cannabis industry’ and I didn’t know anything about it. Is it legal here? Is it safe? Do we have existing retail dispensaries already open?” It was true information overload, but one question seemed to overshadow all others. “Mainly,” Roberson explained, “I was trying to understand how we could not have known about this sooner.” Determined to be a resource for others in her position, Roberson started Cannabis Noire. She sought to help systematically overlooked demographics gain access to the Cannabis industry in their communities. From digital resources to monthly medicated movie nights (complete with infused popcorn), interest in Cannabis Noire was swift and sizable. As a result, Roberson says she’s now working to establish new chapters of the program in other states. “I had all of these voicemails and hundreds of direct messages, but I didn’t want to lose our efficacy in trying to maintain numbers,” she said.
ROBERSON STARTED CANNABIS NOIRE DETERMINED TO BE A RESOURCE FOR OTHERS IN HER POSITION. “So I decided to help empower people, so that they can start chapters of Cannabis Noire in different states.” An ongoing process, Roberson reported that she hopes to have other chapters up and running by the fall. Beyond expanding the imprint and good work of the Cannabis Noire brand, these chapters will also benefit from local experts who can better speak to each state’s industry. “That way,” added Roberson, “those who need it can access the specific resources and education they need. I had two members reach out from Alaska! The people in Mississippi and Texas and Alaska all know what they need better than I could, so it behooves me to empower them to do the work and serve as a support and a resource as needed.” Slow but steady, it is the tireless, often unpaid efforts being made at organizations like AACE, BALCA, and Cannabis Noire that are ultimately leading the charge for true equality in Cannabis. CANNABISNOIRE.COM
“We have official equity leaders leading the organizational effort,” Montero explained, “which is not the case at most organizations. We’re building an organization that’s actually led by equity folks. Now we’re also doing monthly mixers and it’s just really, really taken off.” Photo by Michael Rosati @rosatiphotos Most recently, BALCA welcomed Cindy de la Vega, an equity license holder and owner of a Stiiizy-affiliated dispensary in San Francisco. CO-FOUNDERS DANIEL MONTERO & JAVIER ARMAS “Now we have three cities under our belt,” Armas said. Though it seems all but certain that number will grow in the weeks and months ahead. Beyond organizing on behalf of policy and education, BALCA is working to have members fill current open vacancies on Oakland’s Cannabis Commission. Armas also stressed its value as a support network for the community. “I wrote a book called Budtender Education,” Armas said. “If I wasn’t part of BALCA, that book may have gained some recognition, but the BALCA network is organically promoting this book – they buy it, they read it, they promote it on their Instagram. That is the major plus of BALCA: You’re joining a community that you support and, in turn, supports you without an extra charge.” BALCA.LIVE
BAY AREA LATINO CANNABIS ALLIANCE
BALCA SOLIDIFIED THEIR INTENTIONS INTO A FIVE-PILLAR PLAN: EDUCATION, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, BUSINESS OWNERSHIP, CIVIL RIGHTS AND CULTURE.
STORY by ZACK RUSKIN @ZACKRUSKIN for LEAF NATION | ILLUSTRATION by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
razilian-born artist Guilherme Lemes feels a connection between all manners of life and the natural world. It’s a vibe that breathes energy and color into his career as a graphic designer and mural artist, as he spends his time traveling between commissions and beautification projects out of his current home in Las Vegas, Nevada. But it wasn’t always this way.
See Guilherme Lemes’ work in person at his upcoming solo art show at Black Hammer Brewing: 544 Bryant St., San Francisco,, Aug. 12, 6–10 p.m.
way to being a professional futbol player, with a future career in law in his hometown of Goiânia, Brazil. As it so often goes, the universe had other plans. Right as his career on the pitch was warming up, a knee injury sidelined him. As he was healing, he decided to pick up a guitar to pass the time. His career in the arts had begun. He started playing in rock bands, immersing himself into the vibrant arts scene of Brazil. His early creative inspiration came from Ozzy Osbourne’s face-melting guitar opus, “Mr. Crowley,” which led him to a musical love affair with rock icons from all backgrounds – from metal gods like Osbourne to classics such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. His passion for music quickly turned visual when he discovered Bicicleta Sem Freio (@bicicletasemfreio), a group of insanely talented street muralists from his hometown whose name translates to “Bicycle Without Brakes.” They became a huge inspiration for him, in addition to other muralists, street artists and visionaries, such as Shepard Fairey (@obeygiant), Alphonse Mucha, James Jean (@ jamesjeanart), Tristan Eaton (@tristaneaton) and Alex Grey (@alexgreycosm). By the time Lemes decided to pull up stakes and move to the United States, he’d begun a career as a graphic designer. “Let’s use our hands It was then that he found a new to build a good future muse: the streets of San Francisco. from this point.” “I think this multicultural place – let’s say that it’s an amazing place to be, and to try to understand and find yourself,” he said. “San Francisco was where I had my first time with psychedelics. That changed my way of doing things.” He started painting murals for people around the city in between restaurant shifts, and got his first stateside graphic design gig for one of the restaurants where he worked as a server. He loved spending his time in the vibrant, multicultural city streets, where he still finds inspiration in the rich diversity of life swirling together. “An artist needs to have this sort of relationship with the street, if you’re going to make street art,” Lemes said. “The street gives you a lot of inspiration, and teaches you a lot of things about life. I feel that I need my amount of city sometimes. But if you ask me, like, ‘City or nature?’ Then, nature. That’s me. The street is an open laboratory all the time. … There’s a respect that you give to the street, and the street gives back to you.” Lemes’ passion for cultural and natural diversity, as well as for social justice, shines in his art. For this issue of Leaf Magazine, he drew from many cultural eras and backgrounds when producing the cover design. He was inspired by centuries of injustice and oppression of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. He was inspired by decades of unjust incarceration brought on by the War on Drugs. He was inspired by Sha’Carri Richardson and the denial of her Olympic dreams due to a single incident of Cannabis consumption. He chose the hands, and the breaking of chains, as a symbol for the future. “If you’re going to plant a seed, you need your hands,” Lemes said. “So, the future is in your hands. That is the feeling I had when I made this cover. … Let’s use our hands to build a good future from this point.” Lemes’ artist manifesto can be found in the colors and ordered chaos of his exquisite pieces. The natural world is full of many sounds, many colors, and many flavors – all harmonizing in a beautiful, swirling symphony for the senses. “When I paint Asian people, Black people, Indigenous people, White people, I’m just trying to blend everything together,” he said. “This is how I see. This is how I like to live. I like to have a little bit of all sorts of cultures around me.”
STORY by TOM BOWERS @PROPAGATECONSULTANTS/ LEAF NATION | ILLUSTRATIONS by GUILHERME LEMES @GUILEEMES
the EQUALITY issue
By the time he was in his late teens, Guilherme Lemes was on his
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WORLD OF Cannabis PRESENTS
PROHIBITION’S RACIST ROOTS
Since its very inception, America’s Cannabis prohibition has been rooted in racism.
The racist architects (Reagan, Nixon, Anslinger) and symbolic targets (Cab Calloway, Pancho Villa, Louis Armstrong) of Cannabis prohibition. MEXICAN MIGRATION
Mexicans were using Cannabis for medicinal, recreational and spiritual purposes since it was first brought over by the Spanish in the 16th century. But it wasn’t until nearly 400 years later that it would make its way over the border.
The dawn of the 20th century brought a massive influx of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. – thanks to the Mexican Revolution, which caused soldiers and refugees to flee the war, and the Industrial Revolution, which attracted laborers in search of work. Naturally, many of these migrants brought their habit of smoking marijuana (their Spanish name for it) along with them. Since xenophobic stereotypes of Mexicans as dirty, lazy, dishonest and violent were prevalent in white America, powerful racists used marijuana as a way to demonize and harass them. Exxagerated “yellow journalism” about marijuana Most conspicuously, media mogul William Randolph Hearst conducted a massive anti-weed smear campaign throughout the 1910s to 1930s – terrifying white Amerand Mexicans designed to scare white America. ica with fear-mongering features about mad, murderous Mexicans on their “loco weed.” Since these articles always referred to it as marihuana, rather than Cannabis or hemp, most Americans had no clue that the “evil Mexican weed” was actually the same plant they’d been using for textiles and medicine for decades.
ILLUSTRATION BY BOBBY BLACK
REEFER MADNESS Meanwhile, during the late 1800s, the British imported thousands of Hindu Indians to the Caribbean as cheap labor for their sugar plantations – who, like their Mexican counterparts, also brought their habit of smoking Cannabis with them. Eventually, those Indian Hindus, Mexicans, sailors and African slaves all found their way to the port city of More fear-mongering press New Orleans, where their about marijuana and jazz. cultures and traditions all intermingled. It was out of that marijuana-infused melting pot that jazz music was born. Jazz was the first modern musical genre created under the influence of marijuana – or as they called it, “reefer.” Performers like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway were open about their love of weed – even writing songs about it like “Reefer Man,” “Viper” and “Muggles” (another slang term). As jazz’s popularity exploded across the country, more and more young white people were attracted to it – hanging out at nightclubs, mingling with other races, and yes, smoking reefer. This infuriated the white establishment, who began using marijuana to target African-Americans – especially the jazz musicians. One notorious racist in power who made it his mission to go after the reefer-smoking jazz musicians corrupting America’s youth was Narcotics Bureau Commissioner, Harry Anslinger. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers,” Anslinger once attested. “Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Race mixing, white girls getting pregnant by negroes, insanity, violence, violations of Jim Crow laws … Anslinger blamed it all on marijuana, saying that it made “darkies think they’re as good as white men” and “forget their place in society.” Building on Hearst’s yellow journalism, Anslinger led a campaign of “white fright” to pressure Congress into passing his Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, then used that prohibition to target those who needed to be “put in their place.” In the first year after the law’s passage, blacks were three times more likely, and Mexicans nearly nine times more likely, to be arrested for marijuana than whites. NIXON’S DRUG WAR In the 1960s, the racist prohibitionists’ worst fears were realized: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial segregation. And thanks to the counterculture movement, marijuana use had become widespread among average white suburban young adults. As one New York Times reporter commented: “Nobody cared when it was a ghetto problem. Marihuana – well, it was used by jazz musicians or the lower class, so you didn’t care if they got two to 20 years. But when a nice, middle-class girl or boy in college gets busted for the same thing, then the whole community sits up and takes notice.” Freaked out by marijuana’s growing influence, Americans elected “law-and-order” candidate Richard Nixon as the new president in 1968. It’s well established that Nixon was a racist. In his infamous oval tapes, he spews derogatory remarks about numerous
Freaked out by marijuana’s growing influence, Americans elected “law-and-order” candidate Richard Nixon as the new president in 1968. minorities – saying that the Jews were all “disloyal bastards” and “commies” who wanted to legalize weed, that Mexicans were “dishonest,” and that “Negro bastards” live “like a bunch of dogs” on welfare. Squashing the hippie and Black Power movements was at the top of his agenda. Announcing a new War on Drugs in 1971, Nixon used the recently passed Controlled Substances Act to target and arrest leftist radicals and civil rights activists – most of whom were Black or Jewish. The racist motivations behind Nixon’s Drug War were later admitted on the record by his domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman, who said in a 1994 interview: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people … We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” MASS INCARCERATION The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 brought with it a ramping up of the Over the past Drug War, with new propaganda campaigns (Just Say No, Drug Abuse Reseveral decades, sistance Education) and harsher policies – including an expansion of Nixon’s the U.S. has seen “mandatory minimum” sentencing guidelines (which prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue for Blacks than for whites charged with the same a 900% increase crime), and the practice of so-called “no-knock” warrants. First in its prison employed by the Nixon administration in 1970, no-knock warrants population. were repealed by Congress in 1975; unfortunately, they made a comeback on the state level during the Reagan administration and have expanded exponentially ever since (from 1,500 warrants in the 1980s to over 60,000 in recent years). According to a 2014 ACLU report, 42 percent of those targeted by no-knock raids were African-American and 12 percent were Latino. Unfortunately, Reagan’s successors continued his tough-on-crime approach well into the 1990s – with increasingly harsh sentences and aggressive new policing policies such as the “three strikes law” which drastically raised mandatory minimum sentences for repeated drug offenses (in some cases, sentences of life in prison or death). There was also New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy, where police began detaining and searching people on the street that they deemed “suspicious,” resulting in a dramatic rise in arrests for minor drug possession charges (in 2018, Blacks and Latinos accounted for nearly 90% of the city’s Cannabis possession arrests). Over the past several decades, the U.S. has seen a 900% increase in its prison population. The vast majority of those prisoners are Black and Latino, most of whom were convicted on minor, non-violent drug offenses. In her best-selling book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander argues that mass incarceration has become a new, legal form of slavery – forcing tens of thousands of Black and Brown men to provide free labor and depriving them of their right to vote. ENDURING INEQUITY Sadly, the branches of prohibition’s racist roots are still alive and well today. People of color are still far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced and killed by police over minor drug violations than whites are, even though drug usage rates are virtually identical across races. And although Cannabis is now legal in most states for either medical or adult use, there are still tens of thousands of people of color behind bars on nonviolent marijuana charges, while white executives now make millions for doing essentially the same thing on a far grander scale. And all of these inequities and injustices trace back to the prejudiced propaganda pushed on the public at the dawn of prohibition.
For more on Prohibition’s Racist Roots, listen to Episode #7 of our podcast at worldofcannabis.museum/cannthropology. Story and photos originally published on worldofcannabis.museum and reprinted with permission.
STO RY b y B O B BY B LAC K @ CAN N T H RO PO LO G Y for LEA F NAT IO N
REMOTE NO CONTROL
by Mike Ricker
ike sand through a sifter, there are some items in life that have an uncanny way of eluding your possession. And it seems that no matter how much attention is directed toward keeping these elusive apparatuses secure, they somehow have a way of playing hide and seek. Like that extra sock that is secretly abducted by the clothes dryer, your sunglasses that seem to want to live anywhere but on the bridge of your nose, and of course, your remote control. But why is it that in this world where there is no undiscovered corner in which to hide – thanks to sophisticated surveillance and electronic tracking – that one of the guiltiest culprits is that elusive device that is supposed to live within proximity of the television? It’s like Osama Bin Laden is holed up in a secret Afghani cave between the cushions of your couch, and he keeps snatching your remote to watch his favorite Al Jazeera sitcom. One of life’s great perplexities. I mean, they can find the Titanic 400 miles away from land and 13,000 feet below the surface of the swirling ice waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, and they can return photographs from robotic space probes that have ventured to the end of the galaxy and beyond, but for some reason they can’t install a stoner button on my beloved channel changer. Like, shouldn’t there be something on the television that sends a signal to the remote, which then beeps like a friendly R2D2 who is happy to hang out? Consider this a call to arms! So, here’s the good news: At least you sometimes find a stray nug each time there’s a search. And as far as solving the mystery of the lost sock, I think the Loch Ness Monster ate it.
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