Black Cannabis Week Supports and Elevates Black Entrepreneurs

Black Cannabis Week is returning for the second year in a row between September 19-26, 2021. The goal of the event is to provide a variety of educational seminars and services for people of color, and push for improved social equity in the industry. 

“We have long been an integral part of the cannabis industry from labor to creators. These roles have garnered little to no attention or regard,” the Black Cannabis Week website states. “During this week, we will educate, celebrate and elevate Blacks in cannabis. Black Cannabis Week (BCW21) is a collective web of educational and informational experiences to empower Black communities to move toward social and political change. In collective work, we aim to educate, destigmatize and advance the efforts of social justice.”

The event is being held as a collaborative effort along with the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities (DACO), Minorities for Medical Marijuana and Philadelphia Cannabis Business Association, and other cannabis groups. Among the event’s offerings, it will feature a political round table with Pennsylvania Senator Sharif Street, who will speak on new cannabis regulations. An estimated 30 speakers will be present to cover a variety of educational topics, including a hempcrete workshop, free cannabis certifications, expungement services and networking opportunities.

According to Cherron Perry-Thomas, who’s also a DACO Social Impact Strategist and the founder of the Cannabis Opportunities Conference, Black Cannabis Week is dedicated to helping Black cannabis entrepreneurs stake their claim in the industry. 

“Black and Brown communities have been an afterthought in the evolving global cannabis industry,” Perry-Thomas said in a press release. “If we fail to prepare and learn now, we will be too far behind to enter into this emerging field. It’s imperative that we learn the facts about cannabis, the unjust laws that have created the stigma, explore opportunities for empowerment, and reduce the barriers to help more Black and Brown communities switch from consumers to decision makers which is our mission with Black Cannabis Week.”

Although most of the event will be held digitally, those who live in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area can visit Temple University to attend a Communities of Color Career Event and expungement fair in person

“The cannabis industry has been on track to grow into a favorable financial and social tool for change,” the Black Cannabis Week Instagram posted on September 7. “Entrepreneurship, jobs, innovation are just a few of the positive impacts resulting from an accessible and inclusive industry. The industry has provided all kinds of new positions, and many of them are high-paying. And as the cannabis industry grows, so, too, does the number of job openings in the field.”

Supporting events such as Black Cannabis Week is essential to cultivate opportunities for non-white cannabis entrepreneurs to participate in the industry. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Marijuana Business Daily, 81 percent of cannabis business owners are white. At the time of the survey, only 5.7 percent were Hispanic/Latino; 4.3 percent were Black, and 2.4 percent were Asian. 

Efforts to improve social equity in the United States continue to grow as well. The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency has launched a new program called the Joint Ventures Pathway Program to improve social equity in the state. Social Equity classes have been established in Arizona for those who are eligible for dispensary licenses

Organizations such as the California Cannabis Equity Alliance are demanding that social equity remain a focus as the industry continues to ramp up. These are just a few of the many examples of how advocates are fighting for social equity, but there’s still plenty of progress to be made.

The post Black Cannabis Week Supports and Elevates Black Entrepreneurs appeared first on High Times.

Michigan Agency Launches Social Equity Program to Tackle Essential Issues

The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) launched a new program to improve social equity in the state’s cannabis industry.

On August 31, the MRA launched the Joint Ventures Pathway Program (JVPP), which is the culmination of an organized discussion that was held earlier this year. 

“Based on a recommendation made by the Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup earlier this year, the JVPP will connect eligible social equity participants—and those seeking to become social equity participants—with adult-use licensees, potential adult-use licensees, and any businesses that wish to work with social equity participants interested in pursuing partnerships, including: joint business ventures, mentorships, incubator program, employment,” the MRA’s statement reads.

When the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act passed in 2018 by voter approval, it stated that the MRA was in charge of creating and enforcing all laws related to commercial cannabis businesses. It also directed the MRA to “create a plan to promote and encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

The MRA’s press release states that the law’s language was not enough to satisfy the needs for social equity in Michigan, so it created the Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup in 2020. The group was made up of local officials, state officials and “industry stakeholders,” such as Representative Sarah Anthony, Senator Marshall Bullock and business owners Anqunette Sarah and Tatiana Grant.  

This group met in July 2020 through December 2020 before releasing its final recommendations in January 2021

“The MRA is committed to making Michigan the model agency in the country, including being a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the marijuana industry,” said Andrew Brisbo, MRA executive director, in a press release publishing the group’s final recommendations and explaining their plan for the organization. “As the agency responsible for implementing and administering the laws governing commercial licensure, the MRA recognizes the importance of equity in opportunity for businesses operating in this newly legalized industry.” 

The recommendations included 30 pages of what the state’s social equity model should look like, through the categories of social justice, business development, local equity, process and pathways, resource deployment and strategic partnerships (each category was assigned a team of four to five individuals). It focuses on how social equity could create a more inclusive industry for the state. 

In detail, the workgroup organized concepts for their respective category, identified any statutory or administrative rule changes that are needed, talked about where funding would come from and established specific responsibilities for the MRA.

According to data from Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent in federal prison and 60 percent of people in state prison, who were incarcerated because of a drug offense, are Black or Latino. 

Results from data released by the MRA show that in 2020, only 3.8 percent of cannabis business owners were Black, and only 1.5 percent were Latino.

If you’re a Michigan resident and social equity eligible individual who’s interested in partnering with the JVPP, you can go here to submit your information. Likewise, if you’re a Michigan business owner who seeks to partner with social equity participants, you can become a JVPP partner here.

Michigan is already being noticed as one of the country’s thriving cannabis markets. Not only are efforts for social equity well under way, but the industry’s product variety and selection is rapidly growing.

State officials are working quickly to address industry concerns, such as the regulation of Delta-8 THC products. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel published a brief earlier this month that those who are fired for off-the-job cannabis consumption should still qualify for unemployment.

The post Michigan Agency Launches Social Equity Program to Tackle Essential Issues appeared first on High Times.

Demi Lovato Visits Social Equity-Licensed Ball Family Farms and Sparks Blunt in Video

Demi Lovato posted a video of themself smoking a blunt while in a car on their Instagram story, and revealed their recent visit to a pot farm. The pop star visited Los Angeles, California-based Ball Family Farms, a Black-operated premium cannabis company.

Lovato was excited to share the news to their fans. “@ballfamilyfarms Left w some goodies aka MIYAGI DO [heart emoji],” they wrote on the August 25 video on their Instagram story. In the video, you could see Lovato in front of a large healthy crop of cannabis plants.

Lovato decided to take home some goodies from Ball Family Farms and share them as well. Miyagi-Do is one of Ball Family Farms’ favored indica-dominant strains, named after Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid and Karate Kid 2. It’s described as being minty and fresh on the inhale with a full-body high, producing a rich floral and deep earthy aroma with spearmint notes.

Ball Family Farms is 100 percent Black-owned, and obtained a Social Equity license through the California Department of Cannabis Regulation’s Social Equity Program. The company also claims to be the first vertically integrated Social Equity company in Los Angeles. The company is family operated, including roles under Michael, Chris and Charles Ball.

In 2020, Founder Chris Ball said business was booming, but his team couldn’t keep up with the demand, which ended up being a problem. “The Social Equity Program and the DCR [Department of Cannabis Regulation]—this program is a step in the right direction,” Chris told KRCW last year. “But there needs to be some sort of assistance. … There needs to be some direction to help these social equity applicants, and get to where they need to be and teach them how to run their cannabis business. And they just don’t have it right now.”

A year later, things appear to still be booming at Ball Family Farms. Lovato’s shout-out to their 114 million Instagram followers was a nice gesture to Ball Family Farms—an established California cannabis company truly deserving of praise.

Demi Lovato Goes “California Sober”

Earlier this year, Lovato, 29, announced that they’re “California sober,” meaning they quit hard drugs, but moderate amounts of weed and alcohol are acceptable. Last March, Lovato told Glamour that they don’t restrict themself from marijuana or alcohol after their near-fatal overdose in July 2018. Why? Because they said that setting up unrealistic standards would set them up for failure.

Lovato admitted in their documentary, “Dancing With the Devil,” that they stay successful in their addiction battle by receiving monthly shots of Vivitrol, a medication used as part of a treatment program for drug or alcohol dependence.

In May, Lovato came out as non-binary—the umbrella term for people who don’t identify their gender as a man or a woman—during an interview with CBS Sunday Morning and reiterated their stance on drug and alcohol.

“I am cautious to say that, just like, I feel the complete abstinent method isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody,” they said. “I don’t think that this journey of moderation is a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, too.”

Lovato explained on numerous occasions that people who aren’t ready to be 100 percent sober shouldn’t have to, and that there is merit to omitting hard drugs from the picture.

Lovato was a Disney star by the time they were 17, and like most teen stars who gained fame on Disney, Lovato struggled with drug dependency. Lovato represents the people who quit hard drugs, but are able to function at a reasonable pace, only smoking weed and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol in social settings.

The post Demi Lovato Visits Social Equity-Licensed Ball Family Farms and Sparks Blunt in Video appeared first on High Times.

Illinois Cannabis License Lottery Winners Questioned by Applicants

Officials in the state of Illinois concluded the last of three rounds of cannabis retail license lotteries, leaving many applicants without a license and left to question if social equity was ignored during the process.

The first of the lotteries, called the “Qualifying Applicant Lottery,” was held July 29, 2021 and chose from over 600 total applicants. It awarded 55 conditional use licenses to those who applied and “received a final score of at least 85 percent of 250 application points available.” The second lottery again awarded 55 more licenses on August 5, and narrowed down eligible applicants by removing those who only qualified as employees rather than owners.

The third and final lottery was held on August 19, referred to as a “Tied Applicant Lottery,” with 75 recreational cannabis license winners officially announced by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, chosen out of a pool of 135. During the selection process, there was supposed to be special consideration to take social equity into account on a points-based system. 

“After all of the lessons learned so far, we know that our fight for equity will continue at each phase to ensure that the hopes of this historic law are true to its promise,” said Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Toi Hutchinson in a press release. “Nearly two years ago, high scoring applicants did not know what their future in the Illinois Cannabis industry would be. After the tireless work of the Pritzker Administration, lawmakers and stakeholders who would not give up on the possibility of an industry that looks like our state’s incredible diversity, this third lottery puts us closer than ever to making the dreams of so many a reality.”

On the contrary, many of the chosen license winners are accused of not being diverse enough, and it’s been alleged that many of the winners have political connections that helped them win their licenses.

Two military veterans and social equity applicants, Jermell Chavis and Keith Smith, held a conference on August 20 regarding the questionable results. They were accompanied by Representative La Shawn Ford, a cosponsor of House Bill 1443, which aimed to establish rules to ensure social equity is achieved.

“This entire process smells of clout, collusion, political ties and ties to big cannabis,” said Chavis, a Marine veteran and social equity applicant. According to the Chicago Tribune, he is asking the state to review operating agreements to ensure there aren’t any suspicious owners. Likewise, Smith also wasn’t chosen for a license. He believes there should have been a maximum number of applications that a single company could enter into the lottery.

Some license winners include Allen Iverson and Al Harrington of Viola Brands and AmeriCanna Dream LLC whose partner is Cook County Commissioner Bridget Degnen, among many more.

Although the third and final lottery has concluded, licenses won’t be immediately awarded until Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius rules on a pending lawsuit regarding the process and applicant WAH Group LLC. On August 16, WAH Group LLC was granted entrance into the final lottery where it won two licenses.

Jacobius believes his decision could cause the entire process to be redone. “We can’t predict the future. And counsel says that if you ultimately rule that the whole structure was improper, then the whole thing will have to be redone over again,” Jacobius said. “That may very well be, but I can’t anticipate what’s going to happen. And that’s just the most extreme thing that can happen. It might happen. It’s very possible. But then, everybody then would be subject to just another application process or another lottery, who knows what.”

Jacobius is expected to make his final ruling on September 1.

The post Illinois Cannabis License Lottery Winners Questioned by Applicants appeared first on High Times.

Nevada Gives Green Light to Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Cannabis consumption lounges will be coming to Nevada next year under a bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak earlier this month. The measure, Assembly Bill 341 (AB341), was signed by Sisolak on June 4 after being passed by lawmakers in both houses of the state legislature in May. Currently, onsite cannabis consumption is only allowed at the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace on Las Vegas Paiute tribal land north of downtown.

The legislation permits two types of cannabis businesses. Retail cannabis lounges will be operated by licensed marijuana dispensaries, while independent cannabis consumption lounges will not be connected to a retailer. Both types of businesses will sell ready-to-use or single-use cannabis products for onsite consumption by adults 21 and older. Live entertainment is permitted, but alcohol will not be allowed.

“You can think of it like a bar, except obviously there will be no alcohol,” Assemblyman Steve Yeager, the sponsor of the legislation, said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing, as quoted by Forbes. “It could be a joint, an edible, it could be an infused food or infused soda, whatever the concept might be.”

Yeager added that more original concepts would also likely arise, noting that ideas such as fine dining restaurants serving cannabis-infused dishes, cannabis-friendly yoga classes, and comedy clubs offering marijuana products could all become reality. 

“Whatever you could think of could be possible,” Yeager said.

Ben Kovler, the CEO and founder of multistate cannabis operator Green Thumb Industries, said that the company is planning a lounge for the dispensary opened on the Las Vegas Strip by GTI in May under a licensing deal with the founders of the brand Cookies, rapper Berner and his cultivation collaborator Jai.

“When people come to Vegas for a bachelor party, a wedding, or just to see friends they haven’t seen in 15 months, they’re going to want to get together and consume cannabis and pretty soon there will be consumption lounges and they’re going to want to come to Cookies,” Kovler said. “What better place than Las Vegas? It’s an experience city in the middle of the desert.”

Consumption Lounges And Social Equity

Nevada’s foray into cannabis consumption lounges will bring a measure of equity to the state’s efforts at marijuana policy reform. Before AB341, cannabis consumption was legal under state law only in private residences with the owner’s permission, leaving renters and visitors open to the disparate enforcement of drug laws that has been repeatedly documented. Consuming cannabis in hotels and casinos is not allowed.

“Consumption lounges are important because they help protect people from prejudicial law enforcement or being fined or sanctioned in a way that causes real harm, that perpetuates the War on Drugs,” cannabis and social equity advocate and Las Vegas resident Noel Gordon told Filter.

The legislation also has social equity provisions built into the licensing regulations for cannabis consumption lounges. Nevada’s legalization initiative, passed in 2016, is lacking in robust equity measures. Such oversights are likely to doom or delay legalization proposals today, a fact seen in recent and eventually successful reform efforts in New Jersey and New York.

Qualified social equity applicants who wish to open a cannabis consumption lounge will receive up to a 75% reduction in application fees, which can cost as much as $30,000. Under the bill, a social equity applicant is a person “who has been adversely affected by provisions of previous laws which criminalized activity relating to cannabis, including, without limitation, adverse effects on an owner, officer or board member of the applicant or on the geographic area in which the applicant will operate,” according to the legislation.

Additionally, the number of independent cannabis consumption lounge licenses will initially be capped at 20, with half reserved for social equity applicants. But despite the efforts, Gordon is uncertain the social equity provisions will work as intended.

“I’m not all that optimistic we will still deliver on the social equity pieces,” Gordon said. “We still live in a prohibition lite version of legalization here in Nevada whereby you can purchase and consume cannabis in your home, but short of that, if you were to consume it on the sidewalk, in a hotel room, at a friend’s place, you will still be subject to some kind of criminal penalty or sanction.”

AB341 goes into effect in October, and state regulators are expected to begin accepting applications for cannabis lounges in July. But with regulations still being drafted, it is likely to be next year before the first consumption clubs open.

“The Cannabis Compliance Board is continuing to review the bill and its requirements in establishing consumption lounge licenses in Nevada,” said Tiana Bohner, public information officer for the agency. “The Board will aim to promulgate regulations and begin issuing licenses by early 2022.”

Bob Groesbeck, the co-CEO for Planet 13, a 112,000-square-foot Las Vegas dispensary billed as the world’s largest, said that his company has been planning a cannabis lounge for the site since AB341 was introduced two years ago.

“Our SuperStore is one of the only dispensaries with the space on site and the proximity to the Las Vegas Strip to create a truly Vegas style club,” Groesbeck said in a statement from Planet 13. “As with the rest of our dispensary we look forward to setting the bar and showing the industry what is possible when your goal is to Out Vegas, Vegas.”

The post Nevada Gives Green Light to Cannabis Consumption Lounges appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Episode 359 – No Marijuana for Mississippi

Dr. Jahan Marcu, Heather Sullivan, and Paul Rosen join host Ben Larson to talk about the rejection of medical marijuana legalization by the Mississippi Supreme Court, the merger of Tilray and Aphria as well as other large cannabis acquisitions, as well as the current state of legal hemp and delta-8 THC. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/

Episode 357 – Canna Bumps? Canna No.

Dr. Jahan Marcu and Andrea Brooks join host Heather Sullivan to talk about the science of cannabis, the troubling development of the Canna Bumps brand, and what it takes to succeed as a legal marijuana delivery company in California. Produced by Shea Gunther.