Kassia Graham / Director of Community & Strategy, Cannaclusive
When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
I entered the cannabis space in late 2017 and began working with Cannaclusive. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to work within the United States and Europe.
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
I’ve always had an interest in plant medicine with a focus on hemp and cannabis. My early years were spent in Jamaica and one of my great uncles who was a Rastafarian grew cannabis at home. It’s always been a part of my life in a very intimate way. He taught my mother how to make tinctures and other cannabis-based goods to aid with various ailments.
Cannabis helped me during back-to-back battles with Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a stem cell transplant. It helped to provide pain relief and aided with my appetite.
Hemp and cannabis have so much to offer the world; I see them as a medium for self-expression, creativity, love, exploration, and more. In addition to medicinal and adult-use benefits there are additional applications for the plants. I’m excited to see where research and innovation take us.
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 believe the myth of cannabis being more accessible to Black people is something we have to be mindful of sharing. There is still a great deal of disparity when it comes to ownership and hiring at all levels. Also, being in the industry on the plant-touching side is wildly expensive and filled with red tape; something rarely discussed.
However, I feel Black people and others impacted by the War on Drugs should have resources to aid entry and sustainability in the cannabis industry. This means fair access to loans, grants, banking, record expungement, and more.
What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.
Though many have been hopeful, cannabis equity programs on the state level have not been successful. There are still too many barriers for operators of color and the formerly incarcerated; especially those who are Black and Latine.
From what I’ve seen industry and community-based cannabis equity efforts are doing what adult-use states attempted to do but on a much smaller scale. Via heading the leadership team at Cannabis for Black Lives our members and team have been able to aid in fundraising for, and amplifying organizations including Supernova Women, The Hood Incubator, Our Academy, Equitable Opportunities Now, and more. Those cannabis equity-centered organizations are committed to giving their communities––impacted by the War on Drugs––the tools necessary to build and sustain businesses, and to advocate for themselves and others.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
In 2022 one of my goals includes creating more space for disabled, BIPOC, and queer people outside of the often lazy DEI framework used in cannabis. We focus so much on the black and white that we miss many things in between as well as in the margins. Cannabis should be a more welcoming industry due to the role many marginalized people have played in its past, present, and soon, the future.
In addition to what’s already been stated, I want to turn more eyes towards innovation in multiple parts of the industry. However, I want these conversations to be accessible to all, including those new to cannabis and plant medicine.