THE EQUALITY ISSUE
Success Centers was originally founded by Superior Court Judges in 1983 as an avenue for education and employment for the youth in San Francisco’s juvenile detention facilities. Almost four decades later, they’ve evolved to offer their Equity for Industry program - where the life-changing opportunities now include training to work in the legal Cannabis industry.
success centers sf WHERE DOES ONE USUALLY BEGIN THEIR JOURNEY WITH THE PROGRAMS OFFERED BY SUCCESS CENTERS?
Liz: Our outreach is vast and I think our best referrals come from individuals who have been beneficiaries of our work. It could start at our career center, through our schools or one of our training programs. We get funding from the federal, state and local levels, as well as a number of foundations. Individuals could be brought in by one of our board members. We conduct community outreach activities that we call ‘Breaking Barriers’ - attending trade shows and job fairs, and visiting public housing properties where we encourage marginalized people to come in and take advantage of our resources.
All of our training programs have a very strong hands-on component. Our construction training program teaches the individuals the basic trade to build tiny houses, including the theoretical components of the construction job. The other half of the day includes understanding the acumen it requires to be successful in that industry. Such as, the requirement of waking up early in the morning to get to a construction job. Angela has built in the same kind of rigor that is specific to the Cannabis industry within her Equity for Industry program. HOW HAS THE WAR ON DRUGS CHANGED OVER TIME TO NEGATIVELY IMPACT THESE LOCAL COMMUNITIES?
Liz: We were started in the early 1980s, as a result of the War on Drugs. Crack cocaine sales and drug sales were at an all-time, epidemic high. We saw a number of mainly Black, some brown, young people overflowing the judicial system and filling up the detention facilities. That’s how we got started, five judges. Our community has been decimated by crack cocaine use, drug use - and where folks have not become addicted to drugs, the infrastructure of the family has been destroyed by separating family members and incarcerating them. Leaving kids with one parent or sometimes no parents, it has debilitated our community for decades. It has had a grave impact on the outcome of the people’s lives that we serve. They come to us with little to no education, underemployed, no employment, traumatized by the destruction of the community. They give us a chance to help them move into a space where they can legitimately take care of their families. That’s why its important for us to not only point folks in the right direction by giving them the theory, but to also hold their hands and give them the practicum they need to be able to expedite their learning to get to a place where they can thrive.
Angela: What makes me really excited is to try to bring back some of what was lost and work with folks who were definitely devastated by the War on Drugs. And try to get them to be a part of this industry by working with equity applicants here in San Francisco.
WHAT IS A COMMON CONCERN/OBSTACLE THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD NOT KNOW THAT CANNABIS SOCIAL EQUITY APPLICANTS FACE?
Angela: The War on Drugs has created a disparity of wealth in our community here in San Francisco, and the equity programs were supposedly created to connect equity applicants with folks who have the means to get things up and running. The other main problem here is the real estate. We’re trying to connect with folks who are really interested in working with equity applicants, who aren’t trying to give them terrible contracts. This program is about creating generational wealth, but a bad contract with a partner can stop that from happening. I’m hoping that in the future we will come across investors who truly believe in the inclusiveness and fairness of the Cannabis culture. The portion of Cannabis tax money going to the state that is supposed to go back to the community, that needs to be allocated to the equity program. It’s a very slow process to get approved, which could lead you to paying for your property for up to three years while licenses are being finalized. Liz: The Cannabis Oversight Committee in the Office of Cannabis is a place for the community to request and share information on the process, but it is slow and their office is staffed with only a few people. With all the taxes charged on Cannabis, that money should be put directly back into building infrastructure to provide more opportunities for social equity applicants and programs to thrive.
ARE THERE COMMON SKILLS FROM OUTSIDE INDUSTRIES THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO CANNABIS? WHAT ARE THEY?
Angela: Of course. Director of Operations isn’t much different in the Cannabis space, besides the compliance and rules. Someone who does marketing from another industry could also come in and do work in the Cannabis space, with a little bit of tweak on the nuances.
DO YOU OFFER SERVICES TO ADULTS AS WELL AS THE YOUTH? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FOCUS EFFORTS ON THE YOUNGER COMMUNITY MEMBERS?
Liz: Absolutely. They are probably equal in percentage to adults, because youth these days is 18 to 24-years-old. We’ve broadened our scope to help anyone who is able to work. Our general population starts from 16 to 99-years-old, if you are still interested and willing. Most of the young people that we’ve worked with have not had a quality experience through the educational system and are individuals who have been marginalized through some social structure. They’ve never seen work modeled for them; they’re coming out of foster care, juvenile justice systems, haven’t had good adult male role models - let alone relationships. We target young people so we can help them get on a trajectory to ensure their success. We want to try and connect them to opportunities that will enable them to increase and enhance their earning potential to create wealth. 80% of the young people that we meet inside the juvenile justice facilities or the jails have committed crimes that are of economic nature. We want to teach them to use those transferrable skills to function in the legitimate state, and to give them the resources and tools in which to do so.
STORY by DANIELLE HALLE @SWEET.DEEZY for CALIFORNIA LEAF | PHOTOS by JENNIFER SKOG @JENNIFERSKOG/MJ LIFESTYLE