Black History Month Archives - Green Market Report

StaffFebruary 28, 2022

5min6920

Flowhub

Leandre Johns, COO at Flowhub

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

  • 2021 was my initial formal foray into the commercial cannabis space. Joining Flowhub as COO presented an exciting opportunity to be a part of a new and emerging industry.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

  • I was originally introduced to the cannabis industry by a friend. His venture partners with a university to teach marginalized students the ins and outs of the cannabis business —  from seed to sale. This opportunity, coupled with the rapid advancement of technology in cannabis and the overall need for drug reform in our country, drove my decision to work in this space.

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or No?

  • No, I can’t say with absolute certainty that there is more opportunity in the cannabis industry than in a traditional industry. Given the fact that cannabis is still relatively young as an industry and it’s not legal across all states, the opportunities are still limited. Other established industries are more plentiful in the opportunities for Black Americans just through the sheer size and diversity of jobs requiring all levels of experience and skill. As the cannabis industry matures, more opportunities will open up.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion?

  • It’s difficult to gauge one social equity program against another. In general, I am encouraged by the efforts made by all social equity programs. They are providing greater access to resources and thus a higher chance that marginalized communities can take part in owning in the success of this burgeoning industry. My only concern is that these programs may not go far enough. Just providing access to startup capital isn’t going to create the outcomes that we desire. These programs should incorporate some version of ongoing mentorship so that these businesses have a higher chance of thriving and competing against the larger corporate entities that are beginning to overtake this space. These cannabis corporations may ultimately push out smaller mom and pop players, thereby creating the non-diverse industry that we are trying to solve with these social equity programs.

  • I am proud of the work we are doing at Flowhub with our Social Equity Program. Since launching in June 2021, we’ve awarded nearly $3 million in free software to eligible recipients, providing them the point-of-sale solutions needed to run their business.

What is your personal goal for 2022?

  • This year will be momentous for me personally. I have just completed building a home where my family hopes to reside for some time. In addition, my SO and I are expecting our first child in July. I also wouldn’t mind shaving a few points off my golf handicap but that may be wishful thinking with everything else going on.


StaffFebruary 28, 2022
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5min9960

MXXN

Darnell Smith, Founder & CEO of MXXN

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
MXXN officially came to market at the beginning of 2022.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
I was working in the spirits industry in product innovation and found myself drinking more than I cared to due to the profession – tastings, industry events, happy hours and so on. I was looking for a way to cut back on the alcohol but still be a part of the social aspects that come along with drinking. I had been a consumer of cannabis for chronic pain after 15 years as a football player and would make my own tinctures at home, so, I started bringing the tinctures out to social events, ordering a tonic and lime and putting a few drops in. My wife always encouraged me to find a way to bring the tincture and tonic idea to the public in some capacity, and fast forward some years to a meeting about a non-alcoholic spirit product in the works, and the concept of MXXN was born.

 Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

Given legal cannabis industry is still in its infancy as compared to other industries, I believe we have a chance to create a more equitable and inclusionary foundation. It’s not going to be easy, as the traditional market forces are certainly at play – capital is still in the hands of the elite few. However, I am excited to be on the forefront of breaking through that barrier and showing that a diverse industry is not charity – it is proven to produce better business outcomes.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.

Too early in the effort to identify successful vs not successful. I think there is a groundswell of both for-profit and non-profit organizations that are really trying to do something meaningful. I love what Al Harrington is doing at Viola. Christine De La Rosa and The People’s Ecosystem have an important voice in advocating for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs. Important policy and education work are being led by the likes of the Marijuana Policy Project and the Last Prisoner Project. So many more I could name, and I think its going to take all of us working in concert to drive the change we all want to see.

What is your personal goal for 2022?
In terms of MXXN, we’re looking to build a brand that is synonymous with a premium cannabis experience, starting with beverages. This year we’re focusing on getting liquid to lips and building our customer base through both our e-comm and retail footprint. Once consumers try MXXN we believe they’ll unlock a totally new dimension in the way they feel along with new ways to socialize and enjoy cocktail culture, which is really exciting. Driving a more equitable and diverse industry is also a core goal of the business and of my own on a personal level, so we are always looking for opportunities to further that goal.


StaffFebruary 26, 2022
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4min8960
Next Level
Anthony Jenkins / Next Level.
A passionate baker, co-founder Anthony Jenkins began infusing his gourmet creations, providing a delicious and discreet stigma-free way to medicate. Fellow co-founder Cartier Jenkins, became passionate about cannabis cultivation/distribution and entered the industry as a broker after retiring from the Army. Together, the brothers began offering hand-crafted infused edibles and Next Level was born. Next Level has now expanded into infused coconut oil, and infused brown sugar, so their customers can take their own baking, cooking, and hot beverages to the Next Level.

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

Our company formally began in February 2017 and we received our state license in March of 2021
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
Both of my parents were entrepreneurs and although those endeavors didn’t work out, they passed on the entrepreneurial spirit to me. And when I realized how much our cannabis edibles helped friends and loved ones that were suffering, and how many multiple times better our infused mini cupcakes tasted compared to all the available infused products, I realized that there was a huge opportunity.
Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?
There is a lot more opportunity in the cannabis industry than in traditional industries. This is because the industry is still in its infancy and evolving. 5 years from now cannabis will birth new products and ancillary industries that we can’t imagine today. The many new positions, titles, and companies born from cannabis will be available for those entering the industry now.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
My personal goal for 2022 is to stretch myself in new ways, be present, and meditate regularly. Our business goals are to connect and engage with our target customers growing our brand through (masked) laughs and (sterilized) handshakes.

StaffFebruary 25, 2022
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6min8160
Kimberly Dillon is the founder of  Plant & Prosper, a strategic marketing consultancy that works across emerging industries such as Cannabis, Crypto, and Tech. She also is the founder of Frigg, a wellness brand that combines cannabis and mushrooms in a variety of unique form factors.  She got her start in Cannabis as the CMO of Papa & Barkley, a Cannabis startup that she helped grow to a $100 million dollar business. Named a “Brand star” by Adweek for her story-driven approach to branding, she also serves as a mentor to the Our Academy (cannabis accelerator) and is an advisor to a number of startups.
She has spoken on the topics of wellness, authenticity, and the power of  intuition at a number of key conferences including Goop, SXSW, and NCIA.  She worked at several Blue Chip companies like Procter & Gamble and Clorox. She has two undergraduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from the University of Michigan. Kimberly lives in Los Angeles, where she trades NFTs and Crypto in her free time and is working on her 42nd passport stamp.
When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
2017
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
Its exciting to build new industries. I always tend to be fascinated by whats new and what is possible and I wanted to be part of shaping the narrative of what Cannabis could be. And years later, I feel proud of that work. I wanted to show that there is a spectrum of use cases and users who can use Cannabis to improve their lives. That there is a middle ground between medicine and sheer escapism.
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 have a bit of push back on this question, as the reality of it is, that the structural changes you face don’t really change if you are in Cannabis, Insurance, Football, or Daycare. The opportunity and the mandate that Cannabis should take is to be the most innovative and diverse industry because of our history of prohibition on the war on drugs. Cannabis folks are so innovative, even though in the media we tend to reserve those words for Silicon valley types. The fact that we have an industry, given all of the hurdles, shows innovation. And as it relates to black people, given the fact that the war on drugs was manufactured to oppress black people, and then to not see this industry figure out how to provide generational wealth opportunity to the black community, is quite frankly appalling. And I am not talking hourly jobs, I am talking wealth. Because wealth makes communities healthier, really. Solving for income inequalities makes societies better. But net net coming back to the question, we have a lot of work to do to provide real equity and by equity I mean money.
What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.
Well I am biased as I am a mentor to Our Academy, Which is a pre accelerator program for social equity and BiPoc founders. The ecosystem that we are building is really quite exciting. They provide mentorship, training, supply chain solutions, community, and we are working on a variety of investment solutions as well. We have partnered with lots of MSOs and brands like Cookies, that really align with our values.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
I am really fascinated about the possibilities of web 3 and Cannabis. Its no secret that funding is hard to find in Cannabis and it really is icing out a lot of early stage and diverse founders. Not only is this not good for the health of our ecosystem, but it also stifles innovation. Diversity is not just about representation, it is also about the bottom line. Consumers and society want radical change, transparency, diversity, and sustainability. Especially as the younger consumer enters the market, companies who aren’t working on diversity and sustainability yesterday are going to suffer tomorrow. Web 3, specifically NFTs and DAOs have the possibilities to build communities the world over, and also represents an alternative source of capital that quite frankly is one of the innovative things I have seen recently

StaffFebruary 24, 2022
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4min11130

Little Beach Harvest

Chenae Bullock – Managing Director of Little Beach Harvest and Member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation

“As I am Native American and African American, I experience this twice. I work with businesses and organizations who are looking to become an intermediary in a society that is replete of institutional voids. As well as the implementation of a solution for the global collective wellbeing of humanity. The work I do can range from providing cultural competency training for Government Officials, mediation between Tribal Governments, and Non-Tribal Governments, Indigenous Consumer Lifestyle Marketing, crisis/issue management, to Indigenous Indigenous Celebrity & Influencer engagement.

As a traditional Native American Woman living in a contemporary world, I balance my walk in one moccasin and one shoe. Alongside my corporate career, I maintain my role in the community as a cultural practitioner.

My corporate specialties are: Pre-event planning and strategy, Site location and venue preparation, Public Speaking, Media-savy, Launches, Parties, Fundraisers, Charities, and Private Events, Document Production, Content Creation, Microsoft Office, WordPress, Squarespace, Adobe Creative Cloud, Spredfast, Constant Contacts, Social Media strategy, Hootsuite, Event Production, Organization Communication.”

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

I was appointed the cannabis business leadership opportunity by my Tribe in 2019.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

I wanted to make sure that we were not left out of another industry that has been a part of our culture for thousands of years. I want to make sure that the focus of cannabis as a sacred plant and medicine will never be lost as we build our cannabis business.

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

The wealth gap between people of color and non-people of color is growing wider despite how hard people work to cover that up. This makes it extremely hard to access the proper resources to establish a business let alone scale a business to compete with corporate companies that are developing cannabis businesses. However, there are now opportunities that are helping to bridge that gap, like our partnership with TILT in which Little Beach Harvest is wholly owned by the Shinnecock to act as an economic engine for our community. There may not be an overwhelming amount of opportunities, but more are beginning to pop up.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program. 

WomenGrow is an awesome coalition of women who support women in all areas of cannabis. From creating platforms to supporting one another during cannabis trade show events. To see the elevation that WomenGrow has been able to provide for women in cannabis has been extremely empowering to witness.

What is your personal goal for 2022?

My personal goal is to build more relationships that will become resources for my Nation.


StaffFebruary 23, 2022
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5min7510

Presidential Cannabis

Everett Smith – Co-founder & CEO of Presidential Cannabis. “We are 1 of the largest infused flower companies in California. Fully compliant with California cannabis regulations for cultivating, manufacturing, and distribution of a brand. Currently in over 240+ retail locations in California. As of May 1, 2021 Presidential is the 3rd largest infused Preroll Brand in California, we currently have the number 1 selling infused Blunt in the California market, as well as being the number 1 Moon Rocks brand in California! (According to BDSA Analytics and Leaflink Insights.)”

“I am a college graduate and a retired professional basketball player. I’ve consulted in the cannabis industry for the last 8 years specializing in brand development, strategic marketing, market-specific brand analysis, media and packaging design, regulatory compliance, vendor procurement, and quality to scale with the introduction of a brand. I have Negotiated key service, packaging, and distribution contracts. Currently negotiating licensing agreements in multiple US states.”

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

I formally entered the Cannabis space in 2013 in the California medical market. We officially launched for adult use in October 2018.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

Pure chance! I met someone in 2012 who was talking to me about starting a cannabis business in California. I had just retired from playing professional basketball in Europe and wanted to do something exciting other than working a regular 9-5, so I hopped on the opportunity and it has been the absolute best decision I have made for myself.

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

While the opportunity for Black Americans to get involved with the cannabis industry is improving, there is still not nearly enough, and once we do get involved, there aren’t many programs to help us succeed. We need to teach each other the fundamentals and pitfalls of the cannabis industry. I had to go to the school of Hard Knocks and learn on the job by repeatedly bumping my head over and over. Luckily I had a good mentor and business partner in John Zapp to help guide us through the hurdles we have encountered. I feel there is a lot of support in public and on social media for Black and Brown inclusion, but the numbers don’t seem to add up in terms of actual opportunities and financial support.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program. 

I’m not sure you can count any of them as successful yet. I mean that respectfully, and don’t want to disregard anyone on the frontline trying to further the cause for Black and Brown inclusion. However, we still don’t have the inclusion and participation we should have. I have personal experience with the city of Los Angeles social equity program and it’s not set up for success. From what I can tell it seems that the city of Oakland has done, or is doing, a decent job with its social equity programs. A lot of the Black-owned businesses in the California sector seem to be coming out of incubators in Oakland. I am not in the mix in Oakland to see what the true problems are, but like I said from my view, in comparison with Los Angeles, they seem to be further ahead in terms of their programs.

What is your personal goal for 2022?

My personal goal for Presidential is to expand east. Our goal is to launch in four new states this year. This, along with expanding our product line and continuing to collaborate with the best growers and manufacturers to turn the best products into quality MoonRocks!


StaffFebruary 18, 2022
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16min8990

Vertosa

Austin Stevenson, Chief Innovation Officer at Vertosa

 

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

Well I’ve been consuming cannabis for much longer than I’ve been working in the industry…but I got involved in the ‘professional’ cannabis industry nearly a decade ago, when I was an advisor to an accelerator in agriculture technology in Africa. I went to the MIT Innovation Laboratory, and I saw African farmers cultivating green leafy vegetables in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, via hydroponic indoor cultivation in freight containers. Seeing this piqued my curiosity, so when I got back to the U.S. and put my detective hat on and learned that it was really the cannabis industry that was driving innovation in terms of indoor, vertical farming. At that point, I took it as an opportunity to dive in and get started, as an advisor at a cannabis accelerator in Colorado.

My cannabis career evolved from advising to investing, then operating different cannabis businesses. Immediately prior to joining Vertosa, I led the regulatory Hemp/CBD testing program for Eurofins Scientific – a world leader in food, environment, and product testing services – where I built and designed quality testing protocols for CVS Pharmacy and other retailers who carry Hemp/CBD products.

It was during my time at Eurofins that I really got to see the good, the bad and the ugly of infused products. I identified major inconsistency issues for product potency and stability, which I knew needed to be corrected for the industry to progress and succeed long term and of course to build consumer trust.

Serendipitously, around the same time an old friend, someone who I respected in the cannabis investing arena, now Co-Founder and Vertosa CEO Ben Larson, reached out to me. He said he has been working with a PhD scientist focused on applying his expertise in surface chemistry to creating emulsion systems to infuse beverages and topicals with cannabis, ensuring precise potency and consistently stable products. This turned out to be Vertosa Co-Founder and CSO Dr. Harold Han — he was correcting the major issues I identified in the infused products industry while working at Eurofins. I knew we had to work together to help solve these problems in the cannabis-infused products supply chain.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

People, Products, and IMPACT! I simply love designing new and innovative products and watching how they impact people. I am energized by collaborating with teams, debating ideas, learning from different perspectives, and nurturing relationships with my team and partners. There is an immense amount of joy I experience when I’m able to help someone take an idea and turn it into a real, tangible product which they can taste and feel!

Additionally, I feel the unique intersection between product innovation, and public policy drives my passion to participate in the cannabis and hemp industry. For years, consumers have been limited to traditional forms of cannabis (flower and hash oil). In the past, many consumers (including myself) have been forced to hide, and enjoy the healing properties of the plant in secrecy because of regulatory restrictions. We’re now in one of the most transformative time periods in the modern age. With smartphone technologies, the world’s vast knowledge database is literally at our fingertips. Science is leading new product innovation, and cannabis is legal and more accessible than ever. By combining knowledge, science, and access, we now have an opportunity to recreate the narrative and redefine how and why cannabis is used around the world.

As a result of legalization, new jobs, products, and opportunities are developing. But with great opportunity there is great responsibility. This is the reason why I am an advocate for equity grants, workforce development, and other private and public mechanisms to fund start-up businesses run by people of color and others impacted by the War on Drugs. This is also the reason WHY we at VERTOSA have designed an INNOVATION PLATFORM and are committed to GIVING VALUE AND EMPOWERING ALL ENTREPRENEURS that have an idea AND BRINGING IT TO LIFE!

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

Growing up my mother always said, “nothing in life will just be given to you, especially because being Black in America means you’ll need to work twice as hard for the same opportunity”. To that end, I feel that there is no real difference in the amount of opportunities for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus traditional industries. In fact there may be fewer, because of the many barriers to entry which the cannabis industry imposes: economic barriers, organizational barriers like nepotism, regulatory barriers, the list goes on…

Yet, we all know this is a once in a generation opportunity to be a part of something as great as standing up a new industry – regardless of your race. So I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “[we] will not be judged by the color of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character”.

Reminded of those famous words by Dr. King, and my Mother’s encouraging words, we as Black Americans must continue to work hard to create the opportunities we deserve. Personally, I believe the best way to do that is to lead by example. I AM driven to serve others, and am most passionate about economic empowerment for the communities I serve. Since my days in microfinance, empowering other BIPOC and women entrepreneurs is my reason WHY. As industry builders, we are also job-creators, and with a positive intention to create more opportunities for all, we have the opportunity to create more jobs and opportunities to lift each other up!  As a result, we may truly “be the change [we] see in the world”. That’s why I am so grateful to my co-founders, who share the belief that we must first build a company that is the best place to work in the cannabis industry. With that positive intention at the beginning, we now have one of the most diverse teams in the cannabis industry, and are continuing to create more opportunities for others to join us in our mission to unlock the healing power of the cannabis plant, and make it more approachable and accessible to all!

 What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.

It’s too early to validate any effort as successful. In many states equity programs are just now starting to be built, and there is still a long road ahead. What I will say is collaboration is the new competition and we have an opportunity to start a movement that calls out cannabis operators who prioritize profit over people and products. The cannabis industry is as diverse as the country we live in. It is full of amazing leaders who are people of color, women, LGBTQ, and other minorities. However, many of the cannabis products on retailers’ shelves today are not made or representative of this diverse community that the space intends to serve. Instead, those who have always benefited from privilege continue to benefit in the burgeoning industry, and the privilege gap will continue to widen unless we create a movement that helps amplify the voices of BIPOC, Women, LGBTQ, and Minority entrepreneurs. So what’s the solution / path forward?

First, we can use consumer advocacy groups to demand current cannabis brands/manufacturers to donate a percentage of revenue to sponsor grants for minority cannabis entrepreneurs. This is something I’m personally supporting as an Advisor for EAZE’s Momentum Program.

Second, we can use local and state regulatory programs to create equity awards and licenses for underserved minority populations. This is another initiative that I am supporting as a Member of the City of Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Third, those that ‘have’ must ‘give’. Companies who are profiting off cannabis today must ‘give-back’. If it’s not through grant funding, then by supporting an equity license for a minority to start their own company. Then ‘give’ job training and internship opportunities to all those that have been convicted of a non-violent marijuana crime. Re-entry programs for those whose lives were turned upside down from this plant, which is now a multi-billion-dollar industry, is an immediate opportunity to ‘right’ many of the ‘wrongs’.

Vertosa is helping these initiatives through our work with the Last Prisoner Project, EAZE Momentum, and Our Dream. In summary, profiteering only exacerbates inequality. Grants, Equity Licenses, and Job Training are requirements to create a more equitable cannabis industry. Professionals in the industry have a responsibility to re-write history by leading by example and creating an inclusive, equitable, and diverse cannabis community. By applying pressure at the national, state, and local levels, we have an opportunity to rise and shine together!

What is your personal goal for 2022?

Goal setting is core to who I am, so I have many personal and professional goals for myself this year. The purpose of goals is to set a target and achieve it; or to identify a problem, and solve it. Reflecting on myself, one challenge that I have been faced with is ‘perfectionism’. Too many times, I’ve let my desire to be perfect get in the way of progress. So the one (1) personal goal which I remind myself every single day when I look in the mirror (it’s literally written on a post-it on the mirror) is a quote from Lorenzo Snow, “Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today.” Thus, I am confident that if I am constantly striving to be better than I was the previous day, that I will accomplish all that I set out to achieve.


StaffFebruary 17, 2022
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3min7960

Cannaclusive

Jordan Watson / Creative Consultant

**Pronouns**: He/him

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

I formally entered the space back in 2016 during the prop 215 days that was my first formal introduction to the cannabis space.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

I fell in love with the people. I came from luxury fragrance – a world that was very refined and where I sold things that did nothing to help people. I wanted to be an industry where I could really make a difference.

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

In terms of traditional vs our industry, yes there are more opportunities. In terms of opportunities in general, there should be more! Our entire industry is built on a foundation of cages filled with black and brown women and men. We should see more of them as the faces leading the industry.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.

I am a huge fan of the work of Hilary Yu and Our Academy. They help social equity brands gain access to funding and resources to make it on the market with their 15-week program. I really admire Hilary and the entire Our Academy team for the work they do to help create more space for social equity in our industry.

What is your personal goal for 2022?

My personal goal is to continue to enjoy myself and spread that joy to others, and more importantly I want to see all of the powerful WOMEN in this industry that are so often overlooked WIN! Sorry not sorry fellas, but it’s time for the ladies to get the flowers they deserve!


StaffFebruary 16, 2022
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6min10840

Trulieve

Valda Coryat, Chief Marketing Officer, Trulieve (OTC: TCNNF)

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

I formally joined the cannabis industry in December 2019 after spending over 25 years in marketing, building brands at both Fortune 500 companies and private-equity-backed ventures. I saw so many new growth opportunities in cannabis – and what better way to cut my teeth in this emerging industry than to lead marketing at one of the largest MSOs in the country?

Before joining Trulieve, I served as the Director of Marketing at the National Mango Board and spoke at many food-and-beverage industry conferences. There, I noticed several cannabis entrepreneurs presenting how cannabis fits into the sector’s future. This piqued my interest, and the more I looked into the cannabis industry, the more I realized how I could apply my skills to add value within this space. Now, I’ve been a part of this industry for just over two years, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to create a positive impact within so many local communities through this plant.

 What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

I saw the opportunity to channel my skills towards a greater cause and help companies make purpose-driven business decisions. Cannabis has been used as a healing modality for thousands of years by providing real relief for millions of people, and I believe in the natural benefits of the plant. It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping destigmatize the plant, change misperceptions and fight injustices brought on by the disastrous War on Drugs.

Since the industry is so new, there isn’t a marketing playbook to follow – and it’s exciting to write it in real-time. Every new market and brand launch is a valuable opportunity to fine-tune Trulieve’s approach to engaging with patients and consumers who come from varying experience levels, preferences, lifestyles and ages. The industry is full of bold, imaginative problem solvers, and it’s inspiring to build this space from the ground up with so many talented professionals.

Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry vs a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

Cannabis is still a relatively young industry and I believe there are relatively more entry points for Black professionals to become leaders in this space. At the same time, it’s clear that Black Americans need more representation in the regulated industry, and there are numerous opportunities to make this space more equitable and inclusive.

Black Americans played a tremendous role in creating the vibrant cannabis culture that exists today, and established companies have a responsibility to rectify the social and economic disparities created by the War on Drugs by investing resources into initiatives like expungement and partnering with Black-owned brands and suppliers.

While capital remains one of the main barriers to entry on the industry’s plant-touching side, there are still numerous ancillary opportunities that Black entrepreneurs can pursue. I encourage Black professionals to look beyond owning a dispensary – we need marketers, lawyers, coders and a host of other business skills to grow this evolving industry.

 What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion?

There are several nonprofits driving profound industry-wide change, but the Last Prisoner Project stands out. Although the regulated cannabis space is growing at breakneck speed and is now increasingly accepted by the public, there are still thousands of individuals incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis charges.

Last Prisoner Project addresses this head-on by not only providing pro-bono legal services but supporting local expungement efforts and offering critical reentry programs. Trulieve has been a long-time partner of the organization and will continue to donate and raise awareness to support this impactful team.

What is your personal goal for 2022?

I want to create more pathways for Black folks with a variety of skills to enter the cannabis industry and thrive. This means developing deeper relationships with more Black vendors and suppliers and featuring more local Black-owned brands in Trulieve’s dispensaries. As an executive at the largest MSO in the country, I am also personally committed to mentoring and supporting more Black professionals, both within Trulieve and in the industry at large. I hope to utilize my professional circles and resources to foster new connections within the Black business community and create a welcoming environment for aspiring entrepreneurs of color.


StaffFebruary 14, 2022
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8min13741

Green Thumb Industries

Jai Kensey – Director of Social Impact at Green Thumb Industries (OTC: GTBIF)

 

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?

I entered the legal cannabis space in 2021 as the Director of Social Impact at Green Thumb Industries, but I’ve been connected to the legacy market most of my life and even grew up in a cannabis-friendly household. Before joining Green Thumb, I managed community relations and corporate communications for non-profit and private companies in the U.S. and Australia. I currently serve as Green Thumb’s representative on the Board of the National Hispanic Cannabis Council, a non-profit focused on increasing Hispanic representation within the regulated cannabis industry.

 What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?

Cannabis has always been part of my life, but it was Green Thumb’s “Growing for Good” program –which supports Black and Brown communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs –that persuaded me to pivot to cannabis.

After the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed, I knew that I wanted to work in a space that was more aligned with my desire to support communities of color in a meaningful way. I was also ready to move into a space that not only provided new professional and personal growth opportunities but also valued what I brought to the table as a Black woman. So far, leading Green Thumb’s social impact initiatives has certainly surpassed my expectations.

I have the privilege of working with colleagues and advocates who are so passionate about supporting local communities as well as Black and Brown cannabis entrepreneurs who are trailblazers in this industry. More importantly, I am encouraged to be my authentic self at Green Thumb, which I believe is my superpower in this industry.

 Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

Yes, there are so many opportunities outside of cultivation and retail. The cannabis industry needs more ancillary businesses of color. There is an enormous demand for services like packaging and labeling materials, marketing, security, delivery, software development, construction and real estate throughout the supply chain – the opportunities in the ancillary space are abundant! And if you have an existing business, see if you can pivot your business model to include serving the cannabis industry.

There is so much media attention around state-issued licenses to grow and sell cannabis, but I don’t want my community to miss out on equally essential opportunities that are probably more accessible. Right now, many large multi-state operators are eager to work with BIPOC-owned ancillary businesses to diversify their vendors and suppliers. On the retail side, operators like Green Thumb are also designating more shelf space to Black and other diverse brands to bring these products to new audiences.

There are also countless opportunities for professionals like me who transferred their existing skills to the cannabis industry. Companies around the country are trying to build truly diverse and inclusive teams, and I encourage Black professionals from mainstream sectors interested in cannabis to attend as many educational and networking events as possible.

 What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.

I come from the non-profit world, so I like to highlight the work of Green Thumb’s non-profit partners who are in the trenches doing the hard work. I can’t focus on just one because this type of work, what I call “heart” work, is a community effort. When the community wins, we all win, and Green Thumb has the privilege of supporting these local and national organizations through donations, sponsorships and partnerships.

I will say, what’s personal for me is the work some of our non-profit partners lead in expunging criminal records associated with cannabis and other offenses.

I often tell people about my family’s story. My nephew, who is now 21, was charged with two cannabis-related felonies at 18. This was his first run-in with the law, and the injustice system tried to throw the book at him. Even worse, the white cannabis distributor involved in the case received immunity to testify against my nephew, who is now on probation for five years and unable to live a normal life. These punitive rulings have a tremendous negative impact on individuals and their families – mentally, emotionally and financially. People with cannabis offenses deserve to have their records expunged to access jobs, housing and voting privileges. I’m thankful my role as the Social Impact Director allows me to help organizations focused on expunging records nationwide.

 What is your personal goal for 2022?

This year, I will continue listening to the needs of the communities we serve, as well as our social equity partners, to develop more effective initiatives with Green Thumb’s Social Impact team. I want to help create a seat at our table for Black entrepreneurs, vendors, suppliers and cannabis advocates. I’m like my grandmother, “I don’t meet a stranger,” so I want our partners to feel that when working with Green Thumb and our Social Impact team. I want them to know that we are sincere in our efforts, and we are working hard to help create a more inclusive cannabis industry.


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The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


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