The Chicago Cubs are partnering with wellness and recovery brand Mynd Drinks to offer CBD drinks at Wrigley Field home games for the 2023 Major League Baseball season. The deal establishes fellow Chicago-based Mynd Drinks as the “Official CBD Partner of the Cubs” and makes the team the first in the MLB to partner with a CBD brand.
Under the new agreement announced last week, Mynd Drinks will market its CBD beverages at Wrigley Field and have various signage elements at the venue, including on-field baseline signage and other ballpark features. The deal also includes international marketing rights in the United Kingdom for the 2023 regular season, a first for the Cubs.
“When MLB opened the CBD category for its clubs, it allowed us to explore new partnership opportunities and offerings,” Alex Seyferth, the Chicago Cubs vice president of corporate partnerships, said in a statement from the league on April 7. “We’re proud to be the first club to partner with a CBD company, but what was more important to us was making sure that the brand was the right fit. Mynd Drinks is a Chicago-based company that promotes overall wellness and helps ease the stressors of everyday life, just like a Friday 1:20 game at Wrigley Field.”
Mynd Drinks offers three flavors of plant-based, hemp-infused wellness and recovery drinks that help people relax, refresh and recover. The launch of the company’s partnership with the Cubs includes online content to help fans of the team relax and unwind, including a guided meditation on YouTube narrated by Cubs radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes and a “Sounds of Wrigley Field” Spotify playlist.
“We are so thrilled and honored to announce our partnership with the legendary Chicago Cubs, and that they share our vision of health and wellness in major league sports,” said Simon Allen, CEO of Mynd Drinks.
Sports Leagues Back Away From Cannabis Prohibition
The deal between the Chicago Cubs and Mynd Drinks is the latest example of professional sports leagues’ changing stance on cannabis.
In June 2022, MLB changed its policy that allows sponsorship deals with hemp-based CBD companies for teams and the league. Four months later, the league announced that it had struck a deal with Colorado-based Charlotte’s Web, making the company’s products the “Official CBD of Major League Baseball.” Bill Morningstar, the MLB’s executive vice president of sponsorship sales, noted that the deal marked the first time that a professional sports league had signed a sponsorship agreement with a CBD company.
“It’s always great to be first, but it’s more important to get it right,” Morningstar said in an MLB statement last October. “That was really what drove this, making sure that we did the education, and we understood exactly what the product stood for and what the company stands for…We feel really confident that we took the steps, the time, to get everything in line.”
Charlotte’s Web CEO Jacques Tortoroli notes that the deal will increase public awareness of the health and wellness benefits of cannabidiol (CBD).
“This partnership is a natural evolution in the growth of the industry and our business, and in elevating the quality of life for MLB’s players and 180 million-strong community,” Tortoroli said. “Launching co-branded sports products will amplify each of our wellness missions. Most importantly, we’ll collaborate on education for teams, for players, for fans, for the general public, about what CBD is, and what CBD is not. It’s a unique, really only CBD choice of partner for Charlotte’s Web.”
On April 1, 2023, the National Basketball Association and the players union reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement that reportedly ends the NBA’s prohibition on cannabis for players. According to terms of the deal revealed by The Athletic, players will also be permitted to invest in cannabis ventures and sign endorsement deals with regulated cannabis companies.
The National Hockey League also ended cannabis prohibition for its athletes, no longer listing the plant as a banned substance. NHL players who test positive for cannabis use are not subject to disciplinary action, although players with THC levels the league considers “abnormally high” may be referred to a voluntary treatment program.
Additionally, the National Football League’s collective bargaining agreement for the 2020-21 season relaxed the league’s cannabis policy, allowing players to use the plant during the off-season while maintaining prohibition throughout the season of play. The agreement also increased the level of THC that can be present in a player’s drug test before triggering sanctions from the league and ends game suspensions for all positive drug tests, with players facing fines instead.
As the health benefits of hemp and cannabis become more well-known and accepted among the general public, it makes sense for professional sports to evolve alongside legalization. And apart from updating policies for players, nothing signals change more than an official partnership between professional sports clubs and CBD and THC brands.
Victor Kwesi Mensah—known professionally as Vic Mensa—is a man who fully embodies what it means to be an artist. He’s got the drive, the spirituality, the sound, and most of all, the confidence. But how does one attain the knowhow to be a successful artist, let alone be successful at anything?
The answer lies in a strong support system. Mensa has been surrounded by supportive people for most of his life, dating back to high school where his band Kids These Days was drawing the eye of major record labels and prominent record producers. It was during these formative years that Mensa realized he had talent, honed his craft, and was propelled by the love and support of family and friends to tap into his potential. That potential is now culminating with a second full-length album, a record that’s sonically rooted in hip-hop, jazz, and African music.
When we connect over Zoom, Mensa reveals more about his upbringing and how it helped shape the man he is today. He lays bare his longtime relationship with cannabis, morphing from a teen trying to sell pot he didn’t possess, to owning a socially conscious weed company—93 Boyz—Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand, and how the intersection of weed, fashion, art, and music provided the bedrock for his ascension from a Chicago fresh kid to an inspiring artist kids can look up to.
High Times Magazine: Growing up in Chicago, did you always know you wanted to pursue music?
Vic Mensa: I was a skateboarder first from age 6. By the time I was in third or fourth grade, I was starting to choose my own music, and was more interested in rock and roll. So I started playing guitar when I was 10. After that, I started writing graffiti, and that was really my introduction to hip-hop.
I was climbing 15-story fire escapes, painting rooftops and jumping on train tracks to paint trains before I was technically in my teens. Zoo York was a big influence of mine and there was a Zoo York video—I think they called it the Zoo York Mixtape—that had some KRS-One in there, which was probably the first hip-hop that really resonated with me.
Did you have a particular style of graffiti art and/or skateboarding, and did that style evolve into what you were doing early on with music?
I think all of those things are intertwined because they’re street culture and counterculture. As far as a particular style of graffiti art, in Chicago, we have a lot of styles but I think we’re most known for straight letters, and I was influenced primarily by the Chicago graffiti legends. Straight, block letters, a kind of straight letter tag style. But I was also a student of the game from my earliest days. I was studying Los Angeles graffiti crews like MSK and New York guys like SKUF and Cope—all the OGs.
When I started to release and promote music, I was already familiar with traveling across the city promoting my name [through graffiti], even though at first it wasn’t my real name. I’d do my own wheatpaste posters and shit like that when I was in high school. I mean, I’ll still do a wheatpaste poster to this day, don’t get it fucked up, but off top, I’d definitely be out on a street corner with the bucket and the posters, treating it like graffiti. Because in a way, graffiti is street marketing. A lot of the people that do street marketing for record labels are graffiti guys. So graffiti and skateboarding are my two primary stylistic inspirations.
So you’re immersed in the graffiti world. Was there a moment when music suddenly became the primary focus?
Probably around freshman year of high school when I started to record. Just receiving positive feedback and reinforcement from people around me—not everybody, obviously, but from some people that I respected—did a lot for me. I recognized that I had a particular talent for writing rhymes, but you know man, honestly, I think one of the reasons why I focus myself on doing so much for the youth is because in the dawn of my youth, I know how much those votes of confidence did for me.
Like my big brother Dare who I have tatted on my wrist and who I’ve written a bunch of songs about—may he rest in peace. He was older than me—near my age now when I was a kid—and he brought me into Jam Crew, which was the primary southside Black graffiti crew and took me under his wing. He was like, “This my shorty, he’s dope. He’s dope in general.” Nobody knew I could rap, but they were just showing me love, boosting my confidence, and giving me opportunity. As I found my own path in what I really wanted to do, I already had that network of older guys in the city who supported me and would let me rock stages when they’d have shows and stuff like that.
So your brother helped you see that you were dope in a particular way—just as a human—and then from that, you were able to grow into yourself musically from that sort of base.
One-hundred percent. Those same people who showed me love when I was a kid trying to dress cool and do graffiti and all of that shit—those same people when I picked up a mic or released music tothis day still give me opportunities.
In Chicago, one of our primary forms of cultural currency and a hub of creativity came from the boutiques and sneaker stores. We had a shop called Leaders that’s still around that was incredibly impactful to all of our upbringings, a place called Sir & Madame, which is also still in existence, and a place called PHLI. All of those places were these centers of inspiration, creativity, sneaker culture, art, hip-hip, and graffiti all at once.
Some of the first guys I knew who were heavy with weed, who were cutting edge, having the best weed and the most knowledge and information—all played into our existence as fresh kids from Chicago. We’ve always been involved with art, we’ve always been involved with fashion, we’ve always been involved with music, and we’ve always been involved with weed.
How did your relationship with the plant start and how did it evolve as you evolved as a human?
My relationship with cannabis began when I was 11. I was just like any other kid living in the city, sneaking out of my mom’s basement to smoke in the middle of the night, before school, or after school. In those ways, I became very familiar with weed and trying to sell it. But the problem was, I didn’t have any weed to sell!
So I was trying to sell all types of shit. I was trying to sell blunt guts in a bag to the kids at the private school down the street. I remember the first time I tried to sell some weed I was in seventh grade and had a dime of Reggie. I tried to take it across the way to the high school in the area and tried to sell it to one of my friends. He was like, “Damn, man. You ain’t even got no mids?” I was like, “Man, this is all I got right now. You gonna buy it or not?”
As I got into high school, a lot of my big homies sold weed and I caught a couple plugs and became the guy with the specialty product. It was me and my boy Joey Purp—we had the best weed in the school and we’d pride ourselves on having cutting edge strains at the time. I really thought I was the man when I had Jack Frost, which was a Jack Herer cross strain. I’d be having the OG Kush, the Master Kush, some OG Master Kush. That was our thing, being at the cutting edge of our community as far as weed was concerned.
I used to go as far as bagging up my weed in Nike SB lace bags. For somebody I was trying to impress, I’d bag up an eighth of Jack Frost in the Nike SB lace bag and they’d be like, “Oh, this thing’s fresh.”
I honestly learned so much from selling weed. Selling weed was my first entrepreneurial pursuit. Before I was selling a mixtape or anything like that, I was selling weed. To make it to school on time, I had to get up and bag up mad early. Sometimes people would want to shop super late, so I’d need to stay awake. I had to be punctual—or as punctual as a weed man is—but I’m just a punctual person in general. In those ways, selling weed provided the building blocks for my understanding of work ethic, and through selling weed, I funded all of my first music projects, purchased all of my studio time, paid for all of my music videos—everything. Cannabis enabled me to be in the studio and to express myself.
When it got you into the studio, was there a moment or set of experiences where it became clear that music had taken over and was going to be your main path?
The moment when I sort of stopped everything else was when I got robbed, as a high schooler selling weed inevitably does. I was hustling serving guys who were way older than me—guys in their 20s who had newborn babies but were shopping with me buying quarters and halves daily—and I’m just a little ass kid. Eventually, I did get set up and robbed and lost a laptop with a bunch of important music on it. But around that same time, my father was really supportive of my music shit and was sometimes giving me money to go to the studio. So I just kind of fell back, you know?
It was the same way with graffiti. We kept getting arrested and eventually that was just in the way because music was starting to support itself. Everything else became ancillary—graffiti, hustling—things that were not my primary focus anymore—and I dove into music headfirst.
As you started to hit a certain level professionally, was there a “good omen” like in the Alchemist book that made you feel entrenched in music?
I was in a band in high school and we were performing at SXSW and different festivals courting all of the major record labels. In fairness, a lot of that was people reaching out to me, but I was loyal to the band. People loved the band as well, don’t get me wrong, but No I.D. reached out early on and was rocking with me so much that he was like, “I’ll check the band out.” The real life attrition was there, and this was the blog era, too, so we were getting love on all the blogs—2DopeBoyz, iLLRoots—and building relationships with all of those people. Even before music was paying anything, it was already real in high school and we were building a grassroots fanbase. We were selling out 1,500-person venues in Chicago when we were 16 and 17, so pretty quickly, the music became real.
I personally already had an understanding of grassroots marketing and communication from graffiti and hustling, so I’m selling tickets in the hallway the same way I’m selling dope, you know? Maybe at the same time. I’m putting up posters and stickers all over the city the same way I was just busting tags. On top of that, we were just making good music. The music became a clearly viable pathway pretty quickly.
Throughout your career, you’ve been outspoken about psychedelics and mental health. When did you start to understand the benefits of psychedelics and did they play a role in your success?
I got into psychedelics when I was 18 or 19. The first day I ever took shrooms I was sleeping on my manager-at-the-time’s couch and Chance [The Rapper] came over and he had a hook and a verse for a song that would become Cocoa Butter Kisses. I took the mushrooms, went into the other room, started writing my verse, and just caught a spirit. It was like, “Whoa, this is different.”
From there, I was taking mushrooms constantly in the making of that album called the INNANETAPE and [mushrooms] became a real part of my lifestyle. Throughout my life, plant medicine has been important to me and has played a big role in my different journeys as a human being. I chilled out on shrooms for a while after [INNANETAPE] because I had just overdone it.
The ways in which I’ve used mushrooms in recent years have been in a microdosing capacity and in a much more healing capacity. I started taking antidepressants when I was 15. I started seeing psychiatrists at that same age—therapists shortly after—and in the last 14 years, I’ve taken over 10 antidepressant medications. In that same time period, I’d probably had one year when they were effective, which is a dismal efficacy rate.
I’ve found that plant medicine has just been far more impactful to me in addressing my mental health than pharmaceuticals have, and I think the pharmaceutical industry is scared shitless about the potential for disruption that all of these different medicines present.
It’s like you start taking [pharmaceuticals] and you think that it’s helping because if you miss a couple of days you’re like, “Oh shit, I’m really bad, I’m suicidal now.” Then you remember you were never suicidal when you started taking the medication! The medicine is making me dependent on it. I was struggling when I first started taking it, but I wasn’t trying to kill myself. When you’re dealing with some of these plant medicines, you’re getting a more straight deal.
In the best moments, I think [plant medicine] can help move inhibition. Creativity is not of man in its purest form. It’s given to us from whatever you believe is above us. If it’s God or it’s Allah or the universe or the ancestors—at the end of the day—I believe we’re all just a vessel for a more powerful, divine energy. In the best moments of our creativity, we’re the most uninterrupted sacral. It’s like a radio, and [plant medicine] can help you pick up [the frequency]. They can help pick up the signal.
I’m learning more how to harness things as tools, but to train myself to be the primary influence. These days, I stray away from relying on being under the influence of anything other than myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever have external influences, but I work on my meditation a lot. Meditation has been the most powerful tool for me in addressing my mental health.
I’ve been meditating since I was 16, and in recent years, my meditation has become far more consistent and more extensive. I’ve learned more techniques, I’ve been on five-day silent meditation retreats, and I’ve studied different meditations from different places in the world. In terms of cannabis, some of its traditional uses were as a meditative tool. People think of Rastafarianism as a happy-go-lucky “by the beach, mon,” lackadaisical idea. In reality, those Rastas are vegan, deeply spiritual, deeply meditative, deeply revolutionary, and they meditate with the ganja. Meditation is my medicine above all.
If I haven’t meditated in a day, I find myself getting aggravated over little things I can’t control. Meditation is my first line of defense.
The paradox is that sometimes you’ll need a plant medicine experience to understand that you don’t need plant medicine to get to an elevated place.
There are breathing exercises and meditations you can do that will get you as high as any weed or psychedelic spirit medicine. One of my favorite things these days is to microdose mushrooms and complete an hour-and-15-minute-long meditation from a book by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I usually don’t do guided meditations because I like the practice of disciplining myself, but the meditation in this book Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself is so wicked that it’s like being on an astral plane. When I microdose, I’m taking non-psychoactive doses, which helps me tap into my internal power.
In January, you had an incident with psychedelics that made headlines. How did it go down?
I was headed to Ghana for about a month and I’d decided to get off my antidepressant medication. For the past few years, I’ve been dabbling with microdosing, but not really in the most consistent way. I had that experience that I mentioned previously where I had recently started taking a new antidepressant, took a few days off and started to feel suicidal. But I then realized I wasn’t suicidal when I’d started taking the medication, and decided to get off of it.
So I was off to Ghana and was going to quit the antidepressant cold turkey. I was going to get on a real microdosing regimen, not have a drink when I got there, and take this step for my mental health. I reached out to a couple different companies just to get the right microdose of shrooms and they sent me a bunch of shit. Pretty carelessly, I threw it all in my bag and took off.
I had a great experience there, no issues getting off of the antidepressants. All of the microdosing was cool and I just put all the shit back in the bag, wasn’t thinking too hard about it, and then I ended up going to jail.
In all honesty, what I had on me probably added up to an eighth of shrooms and a single tab of acid—which was an LSD microdose—so the entire bottle was one dose. It was a very miniscule amount of psychedelics in bigpackaging. But I was in such a cool place in my mind, had been meditating a ton, and was in such spiritual alignment that I wasn’t stressed.
I’ve been working with a lot of folks recently in the prison release space and was actually able to help a friend of mine come home 12 years early on a 25 year sentence in 2020. So at the end of the day, being involved in clemency processes and legal processes for bringing other guys home made being in jail for a couple days—especially with the perspective that I have of these friends who are living years of their life in prison—a miniscule experience.
My meditations also gave me a brilliant edge in there, to the point where I was just meditating the whole time to avoid thinking negatively. I’d come in front of the bail court and she was like, “Yeah, we’re going to move your court date to three months from now.” It’s those things that will make your mind want to freak out, but I was in a place of real alignment, so I wasn’t stressed and decided to see things as a blessing in the form of a lesson, and was like, “I’m going to get into the psychedelic game, too!”
At this point, the medical and health benefits are undeniable.
The actual, tangible, biochemical serotonin levels in your mind are boosted. It’s like the laws of this nation are proven time and time again to be ineffective at meeting the needs of the people. The people are sick, are in constant fear and danger of gun violence, are poorly fed nutritionally, and the laws of this nation are incapable of addressing any solution to those many needs. So sometimes, you gotta go to jail for some shit that’s stupid.
In May, I launched the first black-owned cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois—93 Boyz. We’re in quite a few dispensaries and are rapidly expanding. We all know what the War on Drugs has done to Black and brown communities, but it still stands that our representation in the industry is miniscule. So we’re taking steps to change that.
Our brand is standing on high quality and cutting edge genetics in a market that doesn’t really have that yet. Also baked into our ethos is that a portion of all of our proceeds are going to community-driven efforts. And that’s what 93 Boyz is all about: Tastemaker weed mixed with socially-minded initiatives.
Our first project that we’re launching in August with the release of our full strain portfolio is a project called Books Before Bars. We’re putting over one-thousand books into Illinois jails and prisons. This is an idea I had from my own experience sending literature to people in prison and seeing how their entire life experience can be—and has been—shifted by reading the right books. If you can’t attain freedom yet in the physical, you can get it in the mental while you’re still in the cage.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” said Matthew Broderick as 1980s’ icon Ferris Bueller. The same can be said for the cannabis industry. There’s always something new happening.
Snoop Inks Partnership With Atlas Global Brands
Snoop Dogg’s eye on global domination took another step forward following an announcement that the entrepreneur and hip-hop legend signed an “exclusive international licensing agreement” with Canada-based global cannabis company Atlas Global Brands Inc.
“Consumers love Snoop, and our collective goal is to deliver premium products in all cannabis categories that will consistently exceed consumer expectations,” Bernie Yeung, Atlas Global CEO, said in a statement.
The five-year agreement will allow Atlas Global to selectively “source, package and distribute directly in Canada and through approved distribution partners internationally,” including medical cannabis products in Germany, Israel and Australia.
This significant deal also gives Atlas Global exclusive rights to the artist’s name, likeness and other intellectual property “to produce, package, manufacture, distribute, sell, advertise, promote and market cannabis flowers, pre-rolls, concentrates, oils and edibles, and personal vaporizers” in legal markets.
“I chose Atlas to represent and launch my new brands because of their innovation and global reach. I am excited to work with their team to select my favorite strains for my brands and fans,” Snoop Dogg said. “You know they’ll be amazing because they’ll be personally approved by me.”
Roll Up and Roll Out on the Cannabis Experience
Toking tourists and weed-loving locals alike can now enjoy the sights of Denver on the country’s first licensed cannabis consumption bus. Founded by local entrepreneur Sarah Woodson, the Cannabis Experience is meant to provide safe, legal cannabis tours, airport transportation and private party buses that are cannabis friendly, as well as visits to cannabis farms and dispensaries. Private party bus rentals will also offer food and art themes such as “Toking and Tacos” and “RiNo Mural Tours.”
The Cannabis Experience is Woodson’s latest foray into cannabis tourism in the city. The former consultant for Marijuana Industry Group also founded the highly popular consumption-friendly cannabis art class, Kush & Canvases, and says she is “helping move the needle forward in the legalization fight.”
“The Cannabis industry is extremely regulated and not diverse. It took us almost a year to become operational, so we’re excited to be the country’s first safe, legal, licensed mobile hospitality business,” Woodson says. “We’re social equity and African American. We’ll have amazing tours, and grow our fleet over the next 24 months and work on expanding into other local cities such as Aurora. We’re proud to be in the cannabis industry.”
Although there have been previous cannabis buses operating in Colorado, they weren’t officially permitted and were all shut down by authorities. The Cannabis Experience, on the other hand, possesses both a local license and a state-issued cannabis hospitality permit. Here’s how to book your seat.
The Grasshopper Club Opens in Chicago
A family-owned company just made history as Chicago’s first independent, Black-owned dispensary. Located in Logan Square, in the 2500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, the Grasshopper Club is owned by Dianne Brewer and her two sons, Matthew and Chuck, along with some “minor silent investors.”
“We don’t have a relationship or get support or have an arrangement with one of the large, publicly-owned cannabis companies,” Matthew told ABC 7 Chicago.
“I’m working on the accounting aspects of this business,” Dianne said. “I’m totally excited. I retired 12 years ago and here I am working again.”
For Chuck, the opening is something of a full circle, as he was arrested for cannabis possession a few times in his youth. “For me to be doing this legally with my brother and my mother…it’s priceless,” he said.
When Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act went into effect in 2020, “social equity” provisions were included in legislation to help communities harmed by past drug policies access the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. But, according to Dianne, it’s been a struggle for some, and her family has pledged to support other African Americans to open more independent dispensaries. “They call it social equity, but you’ve got to have the money to be able to open, and many African Americans don’t have that money,” she says.
The Brewer family plans to open a second Chicago-based dispensary this summer.
Cannabis Sales Drop in California
According to the latest statistics released by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (DTFA), annual cannabis sales in the Golden State declined in 2022 for the first time since its adult-use market launched in 2018, reports MJBiz.
The fourth quarter’s taxable sales fell 8.2% to $5.3 billion from the $5.77 reported in the same period last year, marking the third consecutive quarterly decline. Additionally, tax revenue was close to $1.1 billion in 2022, a 21% decrease from around $1.4 billion in 2021. Despite the decline, California continues to account for about 20% of the $26 billion market.
According to CROO, the study “will collect and analyze data and report on whether discrimination exists in the Illinois cannabis industry,” CROO states on its website. “If there is a finding that discrimination exists, the Disparity Study will evaluate the impact of the discrimination on the State and its residents regarding entering and participating in the State’s cannabis industry. The Disparity Study will include recommendations for reducing or eliminating any identified barriers to entry.“
The study will examine laws and court cases that involve cannabis and cannabis and disparity studies, conduct interviews and create focus groups for public input, and compile data in relation to the state’s cannabis application process and business information.
A final report is required to be sent to the General Assembly and governor within 12 months, including any “potential remedies” to amend current cannabis regulation. “This effort is a vital assessment of the state’s cannabis social equity licensing system,” said Acting CROO Officer Erin Johnson. “We look forward to seeing a final report that truly incorporates the voices of Illinois social equity applicants and our new cannabis businesses.”
This comes nearly one year since the state issued a request to find someone to conduct the Disparity Study in Feb. 2022. This led to the hiring of the Nerevu Group, which is a minority- and women-owned contractor group based throughout Illinois, as well as some out-of-state locations.
“Along with our partners, Nerevu is honored to support CROO, IDFPR and IDOA in building an even more inclusive and equitable cannabis industry,” said Nerevu Group Founder and President Reuben Cummings. “This study is essential in identifying potential disparities and suitable remedies. We are excited to initiate this project and look forward to connecting with the greater cannabis community.”
Legal adult-use cannabis sales began in 2020, and in July 2022, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that 149 condition state licenses would be issued and available for social equity applicants. “Illinois is leading the way in addressing the War on Drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” said Pritzker. “These licenses represent a significant step toward accountability for the decades of injustice preceding cannabis legalization. Illinois will continue to deliver on the promises of putting equity at the forefront of this process.”
According to Nigel Dandridge, the co-founder of Ivy Hall Damen, it’s taken a long time for his business to open up. “We’ve been working to get a seat at the table for a while now, and we’re finally able to do that,” said Dandridge. “When this industry first opened up, we didn’t see anyone in our community benefiting, or even being able to participate. So it was kind of hypocritical. I think it’s important that we can show you what we’re doing. We want everyone to benefit. Our staff’s been working hard, and we’re just excited to share it with everyone.”
Falling in line with other states in the U.S., Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford recently introduced House Bill 1 to legalize psychedelics in January. Ford’s bill would allow residents 18 years and older to seek out supervised psychedelic therapy. “I want to be clear that this is a health measure. My proposal does not allow retail sales of psilocybin outside of a regulated therapeutic setting and ensures that medicines purchased for therapeutic use at a service center must be used under medical supervision, and cannot be taken home,” Ford said. “Only licensed facilitators will be allowed to provide treatment at closely regulated and licensed healing centers, approved health care facilities, in hospice, or at a pre-approved patient residence.”
The first time engineer Anthony Winston III, PE, consulted on an indoor agricultural farm in California, he was told it was a “tomato” operation.
“I took a look at the building on Google Maps, because it just didn’t sound right – and when I noted the equipment on the roof I knew something was off,” he explained. “When I got there and realized they were a fully licensed and legal cannabis operation under the newly regulated market in California, I told them they could have told me the truth and I wouldn’t have minded.”
The experience gave him a new perspective on just what it was like working within the cannabis industry. Even though the plant is legal in the state, Federal laws stand, with licensed farmers and manufacturers in the space afraid to let an engineer know what they were doing upfront – fearful he’d say no.
Aside from the secrecy of it all, Winston realized the very building housing this major operation, requiring a serious electrical installation and all that implies, was in disrepair in a sketchy neighborhood, at best. This legal, licensed company couldn’t find a better location or building due to the very nature of the business and the stigma involved.
“The first time I was handed a stack of cash as payment for work I realized just what a travesty it is,” he added. “Imagine trying to do business like that – with large sums of money. It’s just not right.”
Discrimination: Black, Brown & Green
Discrimination is nothing new to Winston, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. It’s a part of the city that’s historically gotten a bad rap for crime, with the Black population targeted.
During former South Side resident and first Black President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House, Chicago was wrongly named the top city for murders. The political smear was corrected, however, as the city ranked tenth on the list at the time. Crime data pulled from the FBI, city police officials, and the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019, put St. Louis, Missouri in the number one slot of 65 cities, with Chicago at 28.
In actuality, the region south of the city is diversified, with upper, middle, and lower class neighborhoods.
The misinformation on crime and the fear that ensues on this and other cities boasting higher populations of people of color can be readily traced back to political propaganda. Eerily similar to the way cannabis has been politicized and demonized.
In fact, the plant has been used systematically to discriminate against Blacks, Asians, Latinos, and even women, over the decades. Look no further than the 1936 propagandist film, Reefer Madness, and see that just one puff of “the marihuana” turns women into whores.
Winston, who considers himself a lifelong student of Black history, said while he understands the pain of discrimination within many groups of minorities, he can’t compare his own experience.
“I try not to compare struggles,” he shared. “My struggle as a Black man is different than that of, say, an LGBTQ+ person. You can’t equate it. You can equate the absolute absurdity of someone trying to get plant medicine and assistance, without having to buy expensive pharmaceuticals. In that respect, both are absurd. No one wants or should be treated unfairly – especially when it equates to the safety and well-being of their own bodies.”
Engineered for the Plant
Winston was educated at Arizona State University, earning his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, with an emphasis in Power Transmission and Distribution. He later earned his Professional Engineering (PE) certification.
His company, Winston Engineering Inc., established in 2015, is the only Black-owned MEP and civil engineering firm in California, operating in multiple states and Canada.
“After working on that first warehouse in Los Angeles, everything snowballed. Because of the discrimination in the cannabis industry, when they find a professional willing to work, introductions by word-of-mouth are common. We were working on another warehouse in Long Beach and a neighbor stopped in that was doing extractions, so we worked on his facility. He was the first license holder in Long Beach for extractions.”
Winston’s company employs 10, providing mechanical (HVAC), electrical, plumbing (MEP), and civil engineering for a wide variety of cannabis related buildings, including cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, retail, and distribution.
Helping Himself, Helping Grandma
When California legalized, Winston tried an edible for the first time.
“I’ve always been an athlete, and still have knee pain from playing basketball. Instead of reaching for a painkiller, I take edibles, and it’s been amazing for taking care of the pain. I’m lucky, I’m healthy and only use an inhaler for exercise-induced asthma.”
Helping himself with the plant was one thing, but helping Grandma was everything.
“My grandmother has a lot of medical conditions, and at one point she was taking well over a dozen medications that left her in an almost sleepy, zombie state,” he shared. “I convinced her to try cannabis, and gave her a five milligram gummy to start with. So far, she’s cut her medications down by half and she’s back to being herself again.”
Aside from his cannabis use as medicine, he’s also changed his diet over the years to vegetarian, leaning to vegan, after his daughter was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, including dairy.
In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), it was found that increasing fruits and vegetables in the diet for just two weeks, raises endorphins and creates dopamine in the brain, successfully treating depression.
We in the cannabis caregiving space know that adding superfoods or super plants, like cannabis, also raises endorphins and creates dopamine, while addressing all our biological systems, creating homeostasis or a place where illness cannot dwell.
“I do my best to stay as natural as possible, and I love the cannabis plant and all its possibilities,” he added.
Social Equity in Real Time
“When dispensaries start looking like Apple stores, it’s time to let Black and Brown people out of jail.” – Anthony Winston III
Social equity in the cannabis space means bridging the gap between the once illicit market, into the regulated market, for those who might have been marginalized within the failed War on Drugs.
In other words, if you were part of the cog in the wheel of meeting supply and demand of the world’s most beloved and illicit plant, chances are you might not have the wherewithal to come into compliance in a legal market, with all that implies.
“What the end result of helping people in the social equity space should be is setting people up to start-up and run a business, simply put,” he said. “What that looks like in real time is, we volunteer our time with various social equity groups around the country, teaching them about avoiding pitfalls when designing a facility.”
How they find people to mentor varies. Quite often Winston meets social equity organizers at various cannabis conferences.
“I’ll talk to them about everything I know about starting up and business, engineering, and everything else in between,” he said.
One big inspiration came when he heard Tracy Ryan, founder of CannaKids and mother of Sophie Ryan who has been using cannabis oil in tandem with traditional therapies to treat a brain tumor since she was nine months old.
“When I first [started] working in the cannabis industry, I thought of it as a money making opportunity,” he admitted. “Then, I heard Tracy Ryan speak and met her daughter, Sophie, and that really pulled at my heartstrings. When you begin to hear the stories of cannabis patents dealing with real illness, it changes everything.”
Winston said he’s seen the impacts of the War on Drugs firsthand, with numerous family members locked up over the years.
“Recently, a cousin was released from prison after spending the better part of his twenties in jail,” he said. “He missed out on the years … where he might have developed his own business. This is a common tale within the Drug War.”
The feeling is that those in the industry with the ability to lead in this way, have an obligation to help those coming up. It doesn’t just mean writing a check or adding a logo in support to your website. The victims of the failed War on Drugs, and the inequities that ensue with people of color, add another layer to the wrongs that need to be righted now.
Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot on Thursday announced the launch of the Cannabis Research Institute (CRI), a joint effort between the city and the Illinois state government touted as “a first-of-its-kind center in the Midwest that will further boost Illinois’ global standing as a science hub.” Topics of research to be investigated include the societal and community impacts of cannabis legalization and study into the effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids on medical conditions and improving cannabis plant varietals.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to not only promote Chicago as the center for highly-demanded cannabis research but expand the breadth of knowledge and science needed to shape policy,” Lightfoot said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “Our city is the perfect location, as we’re home to an impressive hub of innovation and world-class research universities and institutions. Leveraging and coordinating our city’s resources to create a top-tier cannabis research center will make waves in this new industry and set the precedent on cannabis research nationally.”
The CRI will be a joint effort between the state and city housed within the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), a Chicago-based innovation and research center that is part of the University of Illinois System. The new cannabis research center based at DPI in the downtown Chicago Loop will be tasked with providing “a robust body of research and data to advance public knowledge on scientific and socio-economic impacts of cannabis usage and production.” DPI has begun a search for an executive director to head the CRI, which is slated to roll out over the next few months.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, who took the helm to make the state the first to legalize recreational marijuana through the legislative process rather than the ballot box, hailed the launch of the new center to advance research into cannabis and its effects. Officials predict that the CRI “will be the premier research institute that seeks to promote equity and a desire to have an evidence-based, research-driven cannabis marketplace.”
“I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Cannabis Research Institute — a national first, creating actionable research to inform data-driven policymaking and advance public knowledge on the impacts of cannabis,” said Pritzker. “I can think of no better place than Illinois for this endeavor. We are the heart of the Midwest and at the very forefront of cannabis legalization — all while dismantling the long-lasting effects of the War on Drugs on our communities.”
Cannabis Research Hindered By Federal Policy
Officials note that despite the overwhelming support for legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical purposes, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. As a Schedule I substance under national drug laws, the federal government continues restrictive policies that hinder research into the benefits or potential harms of cannabis and cannabis products.
“As a result, research on the health effects of cannabis has been limited in the United States, depriving patients, health care professionals, consumers, and policymakers the evidence they need to make sound decisions regarding its use,” the mayor’s office stated.
The CRI will pursue its mission by fostering collaborations and partnerships with a diverse set of stakeholders including city and state officials to ensure that cannabis research will inform regulatory efforts and public policy that protects health and safety. The center will also develop research programs designed to stimulate advancements in medicine, technology and science related to cannabis and conduct studies that address the impacts of new policies and markets on society.
“We now have years of experience building research teams across disciplines and across institutions,” said Bill Jackson, executive director of DPI. “We’re excited to forge new territory and partnerships, conducting research that will make our city safer and healthier — and our society more equitable.”
Work at the center will also prioritize diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry by creating entry points for people of color including jobs and internships, research opportunities and partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities. The CRI will also support research and training with the Illinois Vocational Cannabis Program operated by the City Colleges of Chicago and other Illinois community colleges and host local education sessions in underserved neighborhoods of the state.
Future research planned for the CRI will cover a broad range of topics on the social equity impacts of legalization, the medicinal and health effects of cannabis and agricultural crop management practices. Examples cited by the mayor’s office include the “societal and community impacts of cannabis legalization; demographic gap analysis of medical cannabis programs; effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids on medical conditions, such as relieving anxiety and reducing inflammation; public health impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis use; and plant varietal improvement in controlled environmental conditions.”
A pair of newly opened recreational cannabis shops in Chicago have made history as the state of Illinois’ first two social equity marijuana dispensaries.
CBS Chicago reports that Ivy Hall Damen, whose ownership team is 61% Black, opened its doors on Monday, while Green Rose Dispensary, whose “management team is two thirds Black and Latinx,” opened this past weekend.
Ever since legal adult-use cannabis sales launched in Illinois at the start of 2020, “every dispensary that has opened [in the state] has been operated by ownership teams that are mostly white,” according to CBS Chicago.
“We’ve been working to get a seat at the table for a while now, and we’re finally able to do that,” said Nigel Dandridge, the co-founder of Ivy Hall Damen, as quoted by CBS Chicago. “When this industry first opened up, we didn’t see anyone in our community benefiting, or even being able to participate. So it was kind of hypocritical.”
“I think it’s important that we can show you what we’re doing. We want everyone to benefit. Our staff’s been working hard, and we’re just excited to share it with everyone,” Dandridge added.
Social equity programs have become hallmarks of state-legal marijuana markets, with government officials mindful of the importance of offering economic opportunities to individuals and communities who have been disproportionately affected by pot prohibition.
But Illinois had come under fire for its failure to provide dispensary licenses to members of the Black and Latino communities, despite the fact that the state had pledged to designate a significant number for such applicants.
“Illinois is leading the way in addressing the War on Drugs as no state has before, and dispensary ownership that reflects our state’s diversity is a product of that commitment,” Pritzker said in a statement at the time. “These licenses represent a significant step toward accountability for the decades of injustice preceding cannabis legalization. Illinois will continue to deliver on the promises of putting equity at the forefront of this process.”
According to Pritzker’s office, of “the businesses selected through the lottery, 41% are majority Black-owned, 7% are majority White-owned, and 4% are majority Latino-owned, while 38% of awardees did not disclose the race of their owners.”
Last week, Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced that “$8.75 million in Direct Forgivable Loans fully financed by the State will be made available to all conditionally-approved social equity loan applicants in order to provide immediate access to capital,” and that “pending the completion of a simplified documentation process, forgivable loan amounts between $50,000-$500,000 will be released immediately.”
The Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program, according to Pritzker’s office, “is a first-of-its-kind program” that launched last year.
“Equity has always been at the core of our cannabis legalization process. It’s why we expunged hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis charges and instituted the Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program. But I know that if we want to create a truly equitable cannabis industry in Illinois, we must give our business owners the resources they need to grow—both figuratively and literally,” said Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching this Direct Forgivable Loan Program to provide a much-needed jumpstart for social equity applicants who’ve faced hurdles in pursuit of capital funding. This $8.75 million will help our social equity licensees open their doors for business—a major step towards creating a prosperous cannabis industry here in Illinois.”
T.J. Miller is beaming. Fresh off the drop of his latest comedy special, he’s about to pause our phone chat to toast his wife when he gets some great news about a Christmas movie. And while film and TV are hitting for the comedian-turned-actor, he’s still very much attached to stand-up comedy and is focused on returning to his stand-up roots in the coming months and years, beginning with Dear Jonah, which is now available on YouTube.
While most comedians dream of Miller’s success on the film and television circuit, Miller is excited to be back on stage telling jokes—not just because of the pandemic induced hiatus—but because he’s now become more recognizable from his scripted entertainment endeavors than from the stand-up act that brought him show business success in the first place.
Over the course of our conversation, Miller reflects on his stand-up trajectory, the road to Dear Jonah, his eye toward the future of stand-up, and his hope for a future laced with organic, chemical-free buds that don’t induce too much overthinking nor too much lethargy.
High Times Magazine: Growing up in Denver, did you always know you wanted to be a comic?
T.J. Miller: I always liked cracking up kids in my class and would get in trouble for it all the time. I was usually in plays and would get a lot of laughs, but the first time I did high school theater—it was Dracula and I played the attendant for comic relief—and I remember that first huge laugh felt amazing.
I then pursued a lot of improv and actually stand-up comedy in a high school drama class. I credit my drama teacher Melody Duggan with being able to have the foresight to say “None of you guys will be able to do this for a living, but T.J. might be able to be a stand-up comic.” She was so cool. Nobody else was doing that at the time and I don’t think it happens a lot.
High Times Magazine: From that point in high school, was comedy cemented as your path?
T.J. Miller: It was more when I got to college and tried out for the comedy group. I was the only one selected that year after kind of blowing the audition away. I worked incredibly hard and was very lucky with this group.
Imagine this: You’re in college and then the group tells you they rehearse every single night 10 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday. On the weekends you need to cut sketches, be in video sketches, and rehearse. It was almost like playing a sport.
By sophomore year, I decided to get a degree in psychology in case I needed to do it. Psychology is amazing, but you can really only affect a thousand people’s lives. But you can affect them completely as a psychologist. I figured with stand-up comedy and filmmaking, I’d be able to make an impact on hundreds of millions [of people] but only for an hour and a half.
That [to me] was the better thing to do, so I just threw myself full force into it.
Junior year, I studied at Improv Olympic and tried stand-up in Chicago and was hooked. It just seemed like the most complex and difficult thing in the world and I couldn’t wait to do it and that’s sort of how it’s always been since. I graduated, went straight to Chicago, toured with Second City, performed stand-up every night seven nights a week for three or four years, and then used my work ethic during that time to propel me forward.
High Times Magazine: Certainly 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.—Monday through Thursday—plants the seed for someone to have a successful career in stand-up comedy.
T.J. Miller: That’s exactly right. I learned that if you spend that much time on comedy, you’re going to get great. I took that to Chicago and really cooked up some great stuff.
And that’s what I really love about the special. It really does a great job showing people how I’ll really go with the flow, do whatever makes the show the best, and that the moment is important to me.
High Times Magazine: So in many ways, with this special, you wanted to capture the feeling of being present.
T.J. Miller: That’s exactly it. It’s everybody being present. Like, “Whoa, this is all happening. I feel very there.” I think that is the strength of this thing.
The special was like lightning in a bottle in how we caught [unplanned, awesome moments] and then it all happened to go so well that this guy who’s probably the biggest fan I’ve ever had became the actual star of the show. I just thought that was so neat. And I love that you feel really present in the audience because we rarely feel that when we watch a special or something on screen.
High Times Magazine: What are you hoping people take from the special itself?
T.J. Miller: One thing would be that I am a stand-up comedian. A lot of people just don’t know that. There’s a lot of people who are like, “Wait, he does what? He was awesome in Deadpool, let’s go see him in real life.” And then suddenly they see me and they’re like, “Whoa, you’re actually really funny.” So that’s kind of the most important thing.
High Times Magazine: Creatively, what went into Dear Jonah?
T.J. Miller: I did a run of eighteen shows in ten days, two shows a night—and on some nights—it was three shows. I was preparing what I was doing during the pandemic—it was originally called The Pandemic Special—and I had all of these aims to get the funniest possible version of that out there. It was also kind of a time capsule, and it ended up that this kid changed the special for what it was completely. It became about him, which is why I renamed it Dear Jonah. Nobody wants to hear about the pandemic anymore and I think it’s almost more interesting that the special is more loosely about him than it is about me.
High Times Magazine: Let’s talk about cannabis. How is it part of your life?
T.J. Miller: It helps me look at things with a different direction. It lets me look at my career or a project or my marriage with a different lens, and it’s really become part of how I make those shifts.
Today I had an edible. It’s nice to be able to smoke when you’re not drinking. Most of the time now, I enjoy chilling down and looking at things differently. Weed is really nice for that.
In terms of material, I definitely do think of some stuff when I’m high. Again, it’s shifting your perspective, but I wouldn’t say I need it for creativity, and I never go on stage when I’m high or drunk. It requires too much effort. I’ll drink while I’m on stage, if everybody’s partying, but I won’t really smoke before I go on.
I used to do a quick toke before meet-and-greets and that was really fun. I’m so interested in people—but you’re meeting twenty-five to fifty people—so it was fun to get a little high and interact because they’re all drunk or high as well. [Laughs] Like, none of them are sober. So that was a fun way to do those.
High Times Magazine: When you do consume, do you have a preference on Sativas or Indicas?
T.J. Miller: It’s interesting, I used to be a Sativa guy but then I got too “overthinky.” Like, “Am I thinking this because I’m high or is it all in my head?” I don’t have time for any of that shit. So I moved over to Indicas, but now the Indicas make me kind of sleepy. So I’ve been doing hybrid-leaning Sativa. People keep pushing these Runtz on me, but I don’t know about all of that.
High Times Magazine: You have to find what works for you.
T.J. Miller: And everybody’s affected by it differently. I have a lot of pride in the legalization of marijuana but I’m waiting for that wave of organic, sun-grown marijuana. Chemical-free marijuana. I think we need that. It’s gotten to the point where weed is super powerful and is too chemically.
My favorite thing recently is a strain called Rozé, which the dispensary lady said “Feels like you’re tipsy on Rosé.” Initially I was like whatever, but then I tried it and it’s fire. It feels exactly like you’re tipsy off Rosé, which is hilarious, and I think will be a successful strain.
And while I’m not an everyday smoker—more of a few-days-a-week smoker—it’s cool to smoke weed everyday. I think we can both agree about that.
The Roxy Music 50th anniversary tour sounded like a dream. The legendary influential glam rock band led by singer and songwriter Bryan Ferry hadn’t toured together since 2012. The gang, including Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson, finally joined forces again and hit the road for a tour that lived up to its dreamiest potential.
For anyone not in The Roxy Music party, the English band released its self-titled debut album on June 16th, 1972. It introduced a funky new voice and sound. The band once featured Brian Eno and gained popularity in the U.K., but it wasn’t until their final album and masterpiece Avalon that the band caught on in the United States and elsewhere.
Ferry always wanted to write music that reached the soul. Fifty years later, Roxy Music still works its magic on a crowd who’ve only grown more passionate over the years. While there is no caboose in every seat, Roxy Music and its fans pack the house with vitality and passion that continues to define the band.
Everything starts right on this tour when St. Vincent opens for the band. She’s a musician with a range and artistic curiosity similar to the headliner. She’s funk, rock, and pop and produces music that doesn’t always fit tidy in a box. If any of the more, let’s say, elderly attendees were unfamiliar with her work, they left with a newfound appreciation of Annie Clark and her rocking band.
As a St. Vincent fan, she’s always a thrill to watch on stage. Whether it’s a whole set or an opening act, it doesn’t matter; she delivers. She was spot on for the tour, given her most recent album, the electrifying glam rock throwback Daddy’s Home feels right at home in the world of Roxy Music. The only bummer is she doesn’t play “Live in the Dream,” but she does get the party started. St. Vincent and her band don’t leave a foot of the stage untouched by dancing shoes.
When Roxy Music takes the stage, they do not mess around. They open with the tranquil “India” before pumping up the energy with “Re-Make/Re-Model” and a personal favorite, “Out of the Blue.” “The Bogus Man” is a perfect cleanup hitter as tune number four. It is a playful and haunting number accompanied by suitably low-key nightmarish imagery. With the first four songs alone, Roxy Music reminds the audience of why they fell in love with the band in the first place.
The band’s music is often surreal but always accessible. When “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” plays, you can hear a pin drop. With Ferry’s haunting voice and the band’s sinister instrumentals, it’s a slow burn of a song that explodes. It’s always a highlight when Ferry sings that song, and his band rips and roars through the end of it when Ferry briefly leaves the stage and lets his fellow bandmates take the limelight.
When Ferry is front and center, pardon my language, he is one suave motherfucker. With a warm smile that beams with appreciation, he moves and croons with grace and a classiness that’s defined him since his days as a fashion icon. Yes, he’s still slick, but there’s a beating heart to the slickness of it all. Ferry is a frontman who can remain seated and still project charisma.
Every artist’s voice changes. It grows, evolves, and sometimes even alters the meaning of the songs. With Ferry, there’s a new beauty there. The lead singer’s voice now brings unique, compelling qualities to old songs about heartache, love, and living bungalow ranch style. Ferry croons with half a century of music and life experience. There’s a new depth there, a richness to the musical storytelling. There’s a sense of reflection.
At one point, I overheard, “Who didn’t hook up to Roxy Music in college?” and, “When a guy would put on ‘Avalon,’ you knew what that meant.” Well, the band hasn’t lost its touch when setting a mood. Couples dressed to impress swayed and embraced each other when Roxy Music played their more romantic tunes.
As Bryan Ferry sings, “Dance away the heartache,” I know I was. Sometimes we attend shows, see a movie, or experience a piece of art at a strange stage in life, and it hits a bit harder. That was the case for me at the Roxy Music show at Chicago’s United Center.
I treat my depression with cannabis. I also treat it with soul-soothing music, but I am someone who smokes to ease a bit of stress and pain. At the Roxy Music concert, I was feeling both. Life had taken a sharp turn into a ditch I hadn’t expected, and I was lost. I struggled to have fun, to be in the moment. For two hours, though, Roxy Music, and yes, a bit of THC, brought joy back into my life.
Sometimes you need to see or hear something beautiful to get your mindset back on the road towards a brighter destination. For me, it was Roxy Music’s 50th-anniversary tour. I needed a relaxing high and the sight and sound of music that, for a long time, has kept me warm and happy.
I went to Roxy Music’s concert in the dumps, but a night of singing, dancing, and screaming, “YEAH, Bryan!” eased the heartache Ferry and the band has always captured with their lyrics and instrumentals, both relatable and dreamlike.
The two-day event kicks off on September 13 at the Palmer House Hilton, where attendees will be given an opportunity to broaden their network and listen to a who’s-who of keynote speakers.
It is the 15th edition of the cannabis conference, which Benzinga, a financial media outlet, bills as the top cannabis conference in the world, and a summit where “where stars are made and real deals happen.”
The outlet says that a recent cannabis conference “was the very site where Trulieve Cannabis team met Harvest Health & Recreation, which ultimately led to a $2.1-billion acquisition.”
“At this modern day gathering, you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the most important cannabis stars at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference where you’ll rub shoulders with executives of top-performing companies, glean priceless insights from the world’s leading cannabis investors, entrepreneurs, social equity leaders, women who have taken the industry by storm and so many more,” the outlet said in an announcement earlier this summer.
“Now in its 15th edition, the CCC is where countless companies, from large to small to startups, have met investors who supported them with tens of millions. Sit in on the numerous presentations, fireside chats and exclusive interviews. Enjoy friendly access to companies representing more than 90% of the cannabis industry’s market capitalization in one place.”
Benzinga is offering three different ticket packages for the conference. For $797.00, attendees can receive a general admission ticket, which will get them two-day admission to conference content tracks, two-day admission to the exhibit hall, as well as access to cocktail receptions.
A VIP Pass will cost you just under $1,300, but it will get you the following: “Access to Conference VIP Lounge; Access to VIP area at the Afterparty; Special Invites to Dinners & Parties; Express Check-In; VIP name badge; Reserved Seating; 2 Day Admission to conference content tracks; 2 Day Admission to the Exhibit Hall; Access to Cocktail Receptions both days; Access to Conference Networking App.”
A third option, the Investor Pass, is “for institutional and accredited investors,” and costs just under $300.
Those in attendance will have the chance to listen to several luminaries from the cannabis industry: Charlie Bachtell, CEO Cresco Labs, LLC; Kim Rivers, CEO Trulieve Cannabis Corp.; Chris Beals, CEO WeedMaps; Wendy Berger, Board Member Green Thumb Industries; Boris Jordan, Executive Chairman of the Board Curaleaf; and Michael DeGiglio, CEO Village Farms.
In addition, the conference will be highlighted by dozens of other notable speakers, such as Vic Mensa, who recently launched Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand 93 Boyz; NFL Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, the founder of Michigan-based cannabis company Primitiv; boxing legend Mike Tyson, the co-founder of the cannabis company Tyson 2.0; and former professional wrestler Ric Flair, who is involved in Tyson 2.0.
Three members of the U.S. House will also speak at the conference: Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL); Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA); and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH).
The conference will also have a special emphasis on social equity.
“Through our Cannabis Capital Conference series, we strive to put a spotlight on the conversation surrounding social equity via panel discussions with organizations who are combating inequality in the cannabis industry, individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, and policymakers who are leading the charge on writing legislation to undo the impacts of prohibition,” Benzinga says. “Additionally, Benzinga has committed to donating a percentage of all event ticket sales to Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. We are also proud to offer discounted conference tickets to owners of marijuana businesses who have received state certification for their social equity initiatives.”