Raheem Uqdah, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Curaleaf
When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
I joined the cannabis industry when I was hired at Grassroots Cannabis in February 2019.
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
The decision to join the industry just felt right. I was lucky enough to always find work that aligned with my internal compass and this opportunity was no different. The idea of being able to work in and help build an emerging industry was incredibly enticing to me. Since deciding to dive in I have never looked back.
Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?
I think the answer to this question speaks to the newness of the industry. If this industry is easier for Black folks to enter, it is because we can engage before we are shut out. What I have found in cannabis are passionate people who are given the ability to grow and grow quickly because we are building the industry every day. This isn’t a legacy space with set processes and hierarchy, so the potential is almost unhindered if you are prepared to take a risk and capitalize on the opportunity.
All of this isn’t to say that the doors are flung open. I am constantly talking about the requirement for large sums of cash to get started in the plant-touching side of this business. Of course, we have the context of systemic forces like housing or banking discrimination or drug policy enforcement that have disadvantaged Black communities historically. The unfortunate reality is that these historic injustices are compounded in the present when we ask applicants from these communities to front hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in cash to participate. Qualifications built on the foundations of societal inequity will further the inequity they are looking to address, and we need to think deeply about the outcomes and realities of these programs to make an impact.
What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.
Selfishly, I want to say Rooted in Good and the work we are doing at Curaleaf. I say that because we have a fantastic team constantly working to figure out how to disrupt “business as usual,” and a company culture where everyone has bought in. This isn’t a simple initiative or one-and-done project for us. This is how we do business, and everyone is excited about it. From our recent gathering of prospective Social Equity Applicants and Curaleaf Business Development team members to our cross-functional environmental task force, we are seeding these practices throughout our functional departments.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
Personally, my plans this year are to get out into the world more. My family is really into camping and cycling, so the last two years stuck inside for most of the summer have not been fun. We are already planning some fun trips out of the city this season.
Professionally, this year is about measuring impact and doubling down on what is working. I cannot wait to kick off our sustainability projects here. The industry has a huge environmental footprint, and I am excited that Curaleaf will be leading the industry in addressing this pressing topic.