New York Cannabis Project is a social equity incubator program launched by e-commerce marketplace and home delivery platform, Lantern. New York Cannabis Project is currently accepting the first round of applications for its incubator program, which gives aspiring entrepreneurs access to educational programming, technical services, mentorship and operational consulting as well as access to a resource database for real estate and investor/vendor connections. Applicants will be New Yorkers hardest hit by the war on drugs.
As Akele Parnell (Head of Equity Partnerships at Lantern) explains, “whether it’s winning business or cultivation licenses, building brands and setting them up, our goal is to give social equity applicants the resources they need to build successful businesses in the industry.” Lantern has also launched New Jersey Cannabis Project, which shares its New York counterpart’s goals and objectives, as well as social equity incubators in Massachusetts (where Lantern “incubated” the first delivery couriers to be licensed by the state), Colorado, and Michigan (where it launched women-owned, Detroit-based company Calyxeum). Success stories include Massachusetts-based companies like delivery services Treevit and Your Green Package.
Ultimately, the New York Cannabis Project is hoping to help build a “community-based hub” of which the New York Cannabis Project would be a key partner and which would provide instructors, programming, education and other resources to get people into the licensed industry. As opposed to an incubator, which is targeted toward those looking to become business owners, the community hub would be an ongoing and permanent resource for those looking to enter the cannabis industry in any capacity but who experience barriers related to social equity issues. Resources would range from help with getting criminal records expunged to networking with others in the industry to identify, train for, and pursue job opportunities in cannabis.
Lantern is not the only entity attempting to address inequity within the cannabis industry. Sacramento, California initiated the Sacramento Grow Green Program as part of the City of Sacramento’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity effort. The program provides training, business plan development, mentorship and support to individuals and communities facing barriers to entry into the cannabis industry due to historical inequities in how cannabis laws have historically been enforced. Program applicants must fit into one of five classifications to be eligible, including income level, zip code, or possessing an arrest record for cannabis-related crimes either personally or through an immediate family member.
Los Angeles-based LASER (Los Angeles Social Equity Reform), a program of cannabis technology company Growing Talent, consists of applicants who become “equity partners” upon acceptance to the program. These partners are taken through a 10-week curriculum with industry experts that includes training in best practices and business expansion as well as access to Growing Talent’s range of business resources. The San Francisco Office of Cannabis sponsors a program wherein businesses can apply to become equity incubators for qualified Equity Applicants wherein they provide rent-free space or technical assistance upon meeting incubation criteria. Equity Incubators are then listed on the website as resources for Equity Applicants. With so many new (and not so new) projects seeking to address the glaring inequities in access to capital, resources, mentorship and investor opportunities, the future looks brighter for those previously shut out of the licensed cannabis industry– an industry that stands to gain immeasurably from the skills, experience, and innovation of the very communities it has long excluded.