"Every member of the cannabis industry should strive to be a social equity advocate!" Annu Khot, founder of Sociale Dispensary told exclusively to Benzinga.
At the heart of it all is a transformative debate on potential cannabis rescheduling and its profound implications for social equity within the cannabis industry.
The tectonic shift in the perception of cannabis, from a stigmatized Schedule I drug potentially to a more accepted Schedule III status, mirrors the transformative journey of minorities within the sector. Minorities, much like the perception of cannabis itself, can undergo significant evolution in how they're positioned in the market.
The upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago will be a focal point for these discussions. Key voices like Khot, Tahir Johnson, CEO of Simply Pure Trenton, Leah Bailey, CEO of Blounts & Moore Illinois, and Ernest Toney, founder of BIPOCann will provide insights on the transformative topic of 'Social Equity Stories: What Worked And What Didn't'. Save the dates: September 27-28.
"I've been...working on trying to advance social equity...full-time for the past five years of my life," said Johnson, a dedicated advocate as he reflected on the harsh realities, "Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis."
The profound personal impact wasn't lost on him either, as he recalled the days of his youth, "For me, it was like growing up being where...you could be arrested...for small things like weed." However, his spirit was far from broken. "I think of carrying that brand and what it means...we can come together as black-owned businesses and be successful," he said.
In practical terms, Johnson is committed to uplifting his community, emphasizing, "I want to give people a good working wage...Hire minorities. Hire women." In partnership with Wanda James, founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, he remains a beacon of hope and change in the industry.
Bailey anchored her commitment in the wake of the historical inequities. “The role of social equity is key in the cannabis industry because there has been such irreparable harm done to members of our country by the 'War on Drugs'.”
She emphasized the need for collective cognizance, “We need everyone to understand it and support the efforts of those companies that have social equity cannabis licenses in order to make this program successful.”
Khot didn't hold back either. “Dedicating time and space to social equity benefits everyone in the industry–and paves a path for major legislative change.” She went on to elucidate Socíale's proactive strategies. “From the start of their employment with Socíale, our team members are part of profit-sharing and bonus agreements that enable them to share in the dispensary’s financial success. When I win, they win.” These leaders aren't just voicing concerns; they're embodying change.
“Blounts&Moore partnered with social equity applicants to win six dispensaries and two craft grow licenses in Illinois. Our success will be their success,” Leah Bailey added, epitomizing the collaborative spirit.
Yet, in the quest for social equity, public awareness stands paramount. Khot underscored New York’s turbulent journey toward cannabis legalization. “New York has had quite a challenging time rolling out its adult-use cannabis market (…) The state took an interesting path to its adult-use launch.” She cited a recent Politico article, emphasizing the proliferation of unlicensed dispensaries and associated public health concerns.
In a world grappling with change, these pioneers are carving out narratives of transformation. In their words, the resonance of hope, commitment and actionable change.
As they take the stage at the Benzinga Conference, they will carry forth the message of equity, inclusion, and the undeniable power of collective endeavor.
To delve deeper into this paradigm shift, and to be a part of this transformative journey, consider joining us at the upcoming Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago on September 27-28. All information is available on bzcannabis.com