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The Rich History of Social Enterprise

The “tea pad” is part of a very rich history of cannabis (marijuana) in the African-American community and the jazz scene of the 1920s and 30s. During this time, the United States government launched an aggressive campaign of marijuana prohibition led by Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The campaign had a catastrophic impact on black and brown communities for decades to come. Tea Pads were convivial speakeasy-style spaces where people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds could come together free from the violence of prohibition.

Harry Anslinger, the nation's first drug cop

To honor the rich history of these communities and to help remove barriers to entry to a dynamic industry ripe with opportunity, I borrowed the name Tea Pad for a cannabis industry networking group and social enterprise. Proceeds of Tea Pad events support The Tea Pad Scholarship for Minority Entrepreneurship. The Scholarship provides the opportunity to learn skills necessary to become a leader, an innovator and an entrepreneur.

Jazz great and marijuana enthusiast Ella Fitzgerald

Our logo is named “Eulalia” after jazz great and marijuana enthusiast Cab Calloway’s mother. She was a graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland – a Historic Black College and University. Her name was Martha Eulalia Reed.

"Eulalia" - Tea Pad logo

Join us December 17, 2019 when we host Tea Pad in Washington, DC. Tea Pad Advisory Board member Corey Barnette will kick off a provocative conversation of what social justice in the cannabis industry should like. Corey is a uniquely qualified cannabis industry expert and social justice advocate. Less than 1% of licensed cannabis businesses are owned by African Americans. Corey owns two in DC.

Learn more about The Tea Pad Scholarship for Minority Entrepreneurship, sponsorship information and tickets to December Tea Pad in Washington, online at TeaPad.co.

A Business Case for Diversity in Cannabis

According to a Marijuana Business Daily report, retail sales of medical and adult-use cannabis in the US could rise as high as $30 billion by 2023. Without access to traditional capital resources for company growth to meet opportunity and demand because of US federal prohibition of cannabis, US cannabis companies are looking to Canada for funding and getting listed on Canadian stock exchanges. US companies should be aware that Canadian regulators are making a conscious effort to have more women on boards than currently exists. The best ideas are generated and executed through diverse teams. These teams are highly successful because they include individuals with various backgrounds working together pursuing a common objective.  Similarly, some of the best, well vetted, and most profitable strategies are born from diverse boards.

Different people experience the same situation in different ways depending on their background, culture, environment, etc.  To gain and sustain a competitive advantage in today’s business environment, organizations must make meaningful attempts to understand the specific needs of various demographics and make connections on multiple levels.  How better to hit these two birds than to include representatives from these demographics at the policy and strategy making level of the organization. 

“Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices, issuers on Canadian exchanges are required to report the percentage of women that make up their boards.”

With the advent of social media platforms, information is now as easily uploaded as it is downloaded and consumers are voicing their dissatisfaction with the one size fits all approach that has been the norm for so long. Consumers are demanding products that are tailored to their individualistic needs therefore it is essential that organizations be nimble in their responsiveness to such demands.  To properly tailor products to a blended and diverse society, diverse thinking is needed at the ideas stage.  The person best positioned to advise on the needs of a particular demographic is someone from that demographic.  Ideas can be presented that wouldn’t have otherwise been thought of by those not familiar with a particular group’s experience.  There is growing evidence that shows significant financial benefits for companies that are diverse at the board level.  Critical thinking is improved at the decision making stage therefore minimizing the risk of groupthink and setting the stage for innovation.

Public companies listed on Canadian exchanges, except for venture issuers and funds, are subject to public reporting annually on diversity.  Under National Instrument 58-101, Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices, issuers on Canadian exchanges are required to report the percentage of women that make up their boards.  They are also required to disclose whether they have a written policy relating to the identification and nomination of female directors.  If they have not adopted such a policy, they have to disclose the reason they have not done so.  If they have adopted such a policy they must provide a summary of the policy’s objectives and key provisions; measures taken to ensure that the policy has been effectively implemented; annual and cumulative progress in achieving the objectives of the policy; and, if so, how the board or its nominating committee measures the effectiveness of the policy.  The regulators also require listed companies to disclose their target percentage regarding their representation of women on their boards.  If they have not determined a target, they would have to provide an explanation why they haven’t done so.

As of January 2020, issuers under the Canada Business Corporations Act, including venture issuers, are obligated to inform shareholders on an annual basis how women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities are represented on their senior management teams and boards.  Corporations have to either disclose information about their policies and targets for the representation of the designated diversity groups, or explain why they do not have a policy and targets in place. 

Diversity at the board level means the inclusion of talent that is different yet complementary; talent that is packaged in various shades, shapes, and sizes, and that is present in all cultures, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender.  Diversity of thought, skills, backgrounds, and experiences at the highest level of decision making will help cannabis companies build and maintain a competitive advantage in this increasingly blended and diverse economy.  When people see themselves being represented at the highest level of decision making within an organization, they tend to trust the organization better understand their needs and therefore feel better connected to that organization.  People who trust and feel more connected to a company are more likely to support that company. 

Shelley Albert, Managing Director, AG Governance Consultants

Equitable Legalization of Adult-Use in the Name of Healthcare Justice

Photo courtesy of 1199SEIU
Photo courtesy of 1199SEIU

Last February, the Maryland General Assembly signaled its interest in legalizing adult-use cannabis by creating a task force to study the matter. As a Political Director in the nation’s largest healthcare workers’ union representing caregivers in Maryland and the District of Columbia, I know that we must pass equitable adult-use legalization in the name of healthcare justice. 

The state already has an expanding medical industry, with $109 million dollars in sales in 2018 and double the revenue expected for 2019. As healthcare workers, 1199SEIU’s members see every day the positive treatment that medical cannabis offers to patients experiencing nausea, chronic pain, and anxiety. Studies have shown that when people have access to medical cannabis, prescription rates of addictive opioids decrease significantly and almost 25% fewer people die of opioid overdoses. Maryland ranks in the top 5 states for opioid overdoses, even with our current medical cannabis laws. In part, that’s because there are significant barriers to accessing medical cannabis, especially for poor and Black and Brown communities. So, while medical use has been a beneficial form of care, it is often not accessible to all. Furthermore, Maryland has not done enough to combat the continued inequities brought on by the disastrous War on Drugs. 

“…full legalization of adult-use cannabis is a healthcare justice issue because the racist enforcement of its prohibition has destroyed the health of many Black and Brown families.”

The current system in Maryland requires that qualifying patients purchase a $50 ID card once they have been assessed by an approved doctor, a visit not covered by health insurance with costs of around $200. This means that people expend significant time, energy, and money, even before they find and purchase their medical cannabis. These present significant barriers for low-income communities, thus denying them the holistic care that is available to wealthier Marylanders.

More broadly than access to medical cannabis, full legalization of adult-use cannabis is a healthcare justice issue because the racist enforcement of its prohibition has destroyed the health of many Black and Brown families. As In These Times reported, despite similar rates of cannabis use, Black people are almost 4 times as likely that white people to be arrested for cannabis and almost half of people arrested on possession-only charges in 2017 were Black or Latinx people. We know that arrests and incarceration have a negative effect on entire communities’ physical and mental health. 

In the name of healthcare justice, then, the Maryland state legislature should adopt similar measures to those passed by Illinois last year. In addition to legalizing adult-use cannabis, the Illinois law expunges the records of people with lower-level cannabis charges, making it more possible for once-targeted people to find decent jobs and housing. The law also privileges “social equity applicants” for dispensary licenses and special access to financing, defining such applicants as Illinois residents who have lived for a decade or more in neighborhoods with disproportionately high arrest and incarceration rates for cannabis possession. By privileging such applicants for dispensary licenses and start-up funds, Illinois has made it possible for communities that were systematically targeted for cannabis possession to build some wealth from the new industry. Finally, the law puts 25% of cannabis sales into a fund that will re-invest in communities ravaged by the devastating War on Drugs. In these ways, this legislation begins to address the negative effects that racist prohibition enforcement has had on communities of color. The Maryland state legislature should take similar – if not stronger – measures to ensure racial equity in its cannabis industry. 

In addition to adopting these measures, Maryland legislators should also promote economic equity in this new industry by ensuring that workers are employed in good, steady, union jobs. From our experiences in the healthcare field, we know that union jobs promote financial security, career advancement, and workplace power for workers at the same time that they promote better health outcomes for patients. Knowing this, Maryland should create rules that facilitate collective bargaining in the cannabis industry. Moreover, the state could create incentives for hiring “social equity applicants” for union jobs in the cannabis industry. That way, we can begin to right the wrongs for entire communities and not limit the benefits to community members who can afford to open a dispensary. Maryland can be a leader by creating a brand new industry full of good, family-sustaining, union jobs at companies owned and run by the very communities who were held back by racist enforcement and mass criminalization.  

Ultimately, we have the chance to create an adult-use cannabis industry in Maryland that expands access to medical cannabis, begins to right the wrongs of the disastrous War on Drugs, and secures good jobs for all. As a leader in the largest healthcare union in the country, I urge the state legislature to take this opportunity in the 2020 Legislative Session to make Maryland a beacon of healthcare justice in the cannabis industry. 

Ricarra Jones is political director for the Maryland/DC Division of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the nation’s largest healthcare workers union.

The opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own and are independent of the views of CannabizMD. 

My name is Star Graves – I’m a breast cancer survivor

Star Graves

My name is Star Graves. I am a breast cancer survivor, successful retired finance director, mother, educator, medical cannabis advocate, minority business owner, proud grandmother and podcaster. 

I was a relatively successful person in the world. I had safely raised five children into adulthood. I had a great career in finance working for Fortune 500 companies, a large not for profit healthcare giant in Maryland.  My last place of employment a finance systems director at a Maryland State Department position. I traveled the world with my spouse and then cancer happened, throwing my world in a downward spiral. 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer April 2013. The news was crushing! When I heard the word cancer, every word afterwards was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What !?! It was stage 2 & grade 3. Grade 3 is the most aggressive type of cancer. These cancer cells were working overtime in order to multiply and break off into new cancer cells as they invaded my body. 

June 2013 I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction although they only found cancer in my left breast. I did not want to be concerned about when or if the cancer would return. 

The surgery removed the cancer from my body. I was not required to have radiation or chemotherapy at that point. 

One week after my bilateral mastectomy, I was back in the hospital for emergency surgery because I had an infection which was life threatening. As soon as I recovered from that event I was rushed back to emergency surgery to remove my right expander because that infection was life threatening as well. 

“I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE EIGHT ROUNDS OF CHEMOTHERAPY. THE CHEMOTHERAPY WAS SO DEVASTATING. I FELT LIKE I WAS LITERALLY DYING.”

As part of my recovery plan, my oncologist requested that I be tested to see the probability of a reoccurrence of cancer. It was found that I had a high probability of a reoccurrence therefore, chemotherapy was recommended as a preventive measure because I could have “cancer dust” in my body. As soon as my oncologist said “chemotherapy”, I started sobbing. Something innately told me that chemotherapy would not be good. 

I was supposed to have eight rounds of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was so devastating. I felt like I was literally dying. I had sores wherever there were mucous membranes. I was not able to eat nor drink. I couldn’t hold down water. I was in such a weak and fragile state. 

Then on Nov 1, 2013, I went in for my chemotherapy treatment. They always test where you are prior to proceeding with your treatment. I knew for sure they would say I was too fragile to continue with treatment. This was not the case. An hour into the infusion I started feeling uncomfortable. The uncomfortableness quickly moved to extreme pain. I hollered out to the nurses , “STOP!!!”  The pain was so severe. The pain ran through my body like an electric current. The pain was always between 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to10. The pain stayed with me four plus years, 24/7. 

I had so many surgeries to reconstruct my breast I lost count. Because of the trauma associated with the number of surgeries and chemotherapy, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, toxic myopathy, anxiety, depression, hypertension and insomnia. 

I was taking opioids like Oxycodone, Nucynta ER and even Fentanyl. At one point Methadone was recommended and I was in so much pain I actually considered it. 

Those four plus years were very dark and miserable. I am uncomfortable reflecting on that time but I realize this is why I appreciate so much where I am. I was taking over 20 pills a day when I was disabled. I even had kidney failure because of the excessive toxic medicines. At that same time in my life, I found out I only had one kidney! I was and am so blessed. That situation was also life threatening in hindsight. 

While on opioids I was miserable. People need to realize that pain killers don’t kill pain, they kill people when used long term! 

Fast forward, March 2018 I am faced with a separation and impending divorce. It was time to take control of my life. It was time to take charge of my health. I had already applied for my MMCC card prior to running to Florida for the winter. Winters in Baltimore meant devastating health issues. It was just easier to go to warmer climates where my symptoms were lessened. 

My application had been approved and I could start my transition off opioids with the assistance of medical cannabis. April 27th 2018 I was off all opioids! I was able to manage my symptoms with medical cannabis. Later, I realized that 100% CBD (no THC) tinctures were helpful in stabilizing my symptoms of inflammation, anxiety and depression. I use a product as a stabilizer and medicate with medical cannabis around that. It’s called “stacking”. Using different forms of consumption like topicals, transdermal patches, edibles and such. 

Since I regained my health I have been educating others, advocating for medical cannabis and patient rights. Out of that journey I created Star’s Galactic Podcast – a podcast from the patient perspective. This platform belongs to those courageous enough to be vulnerable and share the challenges and victories they have experienced with medical cannabis. These stories are shared in hope of inspiring someone else to take the time to be educated of the many benefits of medical cannabis. I am so into the cannabis lifestyle. I am healthy and happy trying to shine some love on others. 

Share your patient story and make a difference. Your personal patient or care giver story will help end the stigma surrounding medical cannabis and medical cannabis patients. Share Your Story.

Vaping: Are Processors Subject to Federal Prosecution?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In the last few weeks, the cannabis industry has been rocked by the development of “vape related illness” nationwide. Authorities in multiple jurisdictions have issued subpoenas to several companies seeking information on the formulations these companies are using to produce their products as well as other information about their manufacturing and distribution processes. This has led to the obvious next question: will anybody be prosecuted by the Federal government for production of these vape products. In short, if these companies are compliant with state laws where they are located, they will not be subject to prosecution under the Federal Controlled Substance Act.

In May of 2014, after multiple failed votes, the Rohbacher – Farr Amendment passed and was signed into law. The Amendment is a budgetary rider that prohibits the Department of Justice from expending funds to prosecute compliant participants in state medical cannabis programs.  It has been renewed annually every year since.  In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with several dispensaries and manufacturers on the West Coast and ruled the Department of Justice was explicitly prohibited from continuing to prosecute, with the Court writing “the government had authority to initiate criminal proceedings,

“THIS EXPANSION IS CRITICAL AS ADULT USE LEGALIZATION HAS EXPANDED ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THE PRIOR VERSIONS ONLY PROTECT MEDICAL CANNABIS PROGRAMS FROM PROSECUTION.”

and it merely lost funds to continue them.”  While this ruling is only binding law in the nine states that compose the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona), its logic and reasoning has guided the Department of Justice’s approach nationwide in the years since.

In June of this year the House overwhelmingly voted to renew what is now called the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer amendment.  The name change is the result of Representative Farr no longer serving in Congress. Passage of the 2019 version of the Amendment would continue to prohibit prosecutions of compliant medical participants, but would also expand the protections provided to state sanctioned adult use programs and their participants.  This expansion is critical as adult use legalization has expanded across the country and the prior versions only protect medical cannabis programs from prosecution.  Unfortunately, the 2019 version of the Amendment has not been taken up by the Senate and remains languishing on the legislative calendar.  The 2018 version of the law expires this month, September of 2019. 

Without renewal, every manufacturer or participant in any state sanctioned cannabis industry activities would potentially be subject to prosecution by the Department of Justice.  While possible, our office sees the possibility of these prosecutions as remote.  President Trump recently reiterated to reporters outside the White House that his administration will continue to allow states to set their own policies in regards to cannabis.  In doing so, he seems to have indicated that the Department of Justice will continue to view prosecutions of compliant operators as one of its lowest enforcement priorities.  The expiration of the rider simply removes a defense that the accused had should they be prosecuted.  If the administration does not think these prosecutions are worth the time and expense, nothing should change on the ground in states that have sanctioned cannabis, medical or adult use.

Daniel Mehler is a cannabis attorney and partner at Roper & Mehler, The Dopest Lawyers In Town, PLLC.