Episode 9

Social Equity and Diversity in the Cannabis Industry

Social Equity and Diversity in the Cannabis Industry

On this double-length episode we speak with Erik Range of Minorities for Medical Marijuana and HYC about social equity and diversity in the cannabis industry. The second half of our episode features a round table with other members of HYC.

Guests:
Erik Range – Director of Social Equity HYC and Minorities for Medical Marijuana
John Valdez – HYC Vice President
Mercedes Woods – Compliance HYC
Keith Gigliotti – Director of Marketing and Design HYC

Minorities for Medical Marijuana:
minorities4medicalmarijuana.org/

SPEAKERS

Mercedes Woods, John Valdez, Keith, Eric Grange, Adam Kulbach

 

Adam Kulbach  00:09

Welcome to the higher enlightenment podcast brought to you by higher yields cannabis consulting every 10 or 15 years of film is produced that is so overwhelming, so forceful in its impact that it becomes deeply embedded in the mind Hello, and welcome to the higher enlightenment podcast brought to you by higher yields cannabis consulting your seed to scale Cannabis Business Solutions team and the creators of the innovative cannabis consulting business solution system, hire enlightenment. My name is Adam and I am part of the creative design team here at higher yields. And I’m here to introduce and give a little background on the higher enlightenment podcast. So what are these podcasts about? The higher enlightenment podcast was created to discuss everything cannabis. Whether it be cannabis, industry news, cannabis industry insider insights, advice and tips to establish your own successful cannabis business and cannabis pop culture in general. We’ll also be discussing Cannabis News from around the globe. Today’s episode features Eric range from minorities for medical marijuana, and higher yield. We’ll be discussing minorities and social equity in the cannabis industry. The second half of the episode features a roundtable discussion, Mercedes woods, Keith, Ceglie, Yachty, and John Valadez, all from higher yields. We appreciate your choosing our theater, and to make this experience more enjoyable for everyone, we hope you’ll refrain from talking during the show. Thank you. So, Eric, what do you do? And how did you get there?

 

Eric Grange  02:25

That’s a great question. You know, most people always ask, well, you know, what is it that you do? And I find it easier to answer the question of what is it I don’t do, because I do a lot. And you know, I stay pretty busy. But I started in the space back in 2015, with my art company art for 20. Using that as an education platform, really, and truly to challenge the stereotypes about cannabis users using fine art as a backdrop. You know, and as I was developing that company and promoting our art show, I recognize that minorities weren’t a part of the larger landscape in cannabis. And, you know, initially, it wasn’t something that I was heavily focused on. But, you know, very quickly, it became something that I recognized, I had both a platform to do it, as well as, you know, personally an obligation to do it. And so it took for, if I say it, there had to be one turning point for me. It was at an MJ biz conference that was in Orlando, Florida. This was going on the second year of me promoting our annual art show. And so I attended the conference. And as I was leaving out one day, you know, someone came up to me, he happened to be a keynote speaker, he was a doctor presenting at the conference, you know, about medical cannabis. And he came up to me, and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he was like, a black guy with dreads where the rest of you guys, and you know it, he meant very well by it. And, you know, we had a good little laugh about it. And he became one of my biggest supporters made all kinds of introductions for me and so on. But his point was that minority communities had been decimated because of the war on drugs. Why weren’t more of us seeking to participate in this industry? And so it was something that I hadn’t put a whole lot of thought to at the time. I didn’t know that, you know, minorities were being arrested at higher rates. And, you know, I certainly wanted to see my more minorities participate. But it wasn’t the mission of the art company. You know, we had a different focus. And so we decided to use the platform to create an event called the black market brunch. And we brought in growers from Oregon we brought in attorneys folks who, really the folks who wrote Florida’s amendment to to expand our medical marijuana program We just brought in as many people as we could. And we marketed to minority communities by minority professionals. And we wanted to bring them in, allow them to learn about what was happening in our state and around the country, and hopes that somebody would hear something that would lead to them getting into the industry. So that’s how I kind of got started in this space. And as I was promoting that black market brunch on Facebook, someone said, Hey, you should really connect with this group minorities for medical marijuana, they’re based in Florida as well. And you guys seem to have similar goals. And so that was when I connected with Roz McCarthy, the founder of minorities for medical marijuana, and, you know, we hooked up and you know, started collaborating, and she, she actually, you know, invited me to be the board chair for the organization. And so, and I had invited her to what was in at the time, her first speaking engagement in the cannabis, cannabis space was at the black market brunch, during the art for 20 exhibition. So that’s how I got started, just, you know, focusing on diversity issues in the space, focusing on creating opportunities for those individuals and communities that had really bore the brunt of the war on drugs. And so from there, you know, it’s been a lot of, you know, valleys and peaks that we’ve gone through. But, you know, that’s how it all began. And that’s what leads us to where we are today.

 

Adam Kulbach  06:35

Right? How can people help minorities for medical marijuana,

 

Eric Grange  06:41

you know, get involved, the cannabis industry is an industry that I think, was born out of advocacy. So, you know, some of the earliest folks who were able to obtain licenses and so on, out in California under their initial medical program, those were some of the early advocates who were advocating the medicinal benefits of the plant, and, you know, so every step that we’ve taken as an industry since then, has really been brought on because of strong advocacy, folks on the ground, in the, at the grassroots, and many different states helping to move the needle forward. And so, as an organization, that’s what we’re doing, you know, we’re fighting to help change the laws, create spaces for minorities, we’re fighting to educate minorities in the community, educate, you know, educated in a both on the medicinal benefits as well as the economic benefits. So, you know, getting involved with our organization, donating, you can go to our website and donate, of course, you can become a member, you know, we have, I think one of the cheapest, you know, memberships out there for associations $100 a year, really, and truly helps you as a professional, if you’re interested in getting in the industry, learning a little bit more about that, and kind of cutting through some of the red tape of education. But you know, more importantly, it goes to help us do the work that we do, you know, throughout the community. So those are a couple of ways. And then if you are a cannabis business already in the space, we do have corporate partnerships as well, that go a little bit deeper. And it really it truly helped to support our our annual budget and to help us to, you know, achieve long term sustainability as an organization would be, you know, because we believe 1520 years from now, someone’s going to need to be at the table fighting on behalf of, you know, diversity and the folks who, you know, come from communities that really, you know, took it on the head, if you will, from the war on drugs.

 

Adam Kulbach  08:48

Um, where is that website? Can you give us the address?

 

Eric Grange  08:51

Absolutely, website is m, the number for M M united.org. So, M for M M united.org. And of course, you can find this on all of the social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and you know, just a simple Google search of minorities for medical marijuana, or even in for mmm, in those platforms, you should be fine. It’s pretty easy.

 

Adam Kulbach  09:18

Okay, could you explain the Diversity Matters memberships? Can anyone join? Are there certain criteria

 

Eric Grange  09:25

that yeah, we are. We are, you know, we, we strive to be a diverse organization. You know, we certainly are very clear about as an organization having initiatives and a, you know, a priority on black and brown communities. But, you know, we have current members as part of our board, a part of our leadership team, who are not black, you know, at all. So, you know, we don’t restrict membership in that way. You know, we have anyone can join the organization. and become a member. And certainly, if you’re specifically interested in some of our programs that target, you know, the minority community and minority entrepreneurs and so on, you know, we’d love to be able to speak with you and talk, you know, how we can work together and build off of, you know, synergies to really support our programs.

 

Adam Kulbach  10:22

Okay. You also have some national programs, could you explain some of them? Yeah, so

 

Eric Grange  10:29

we, you know, as an organization, we believe in approaching this subject of cannabis from a holistic standpoint, you know, we started as an organization that focus primarily on the medical marijuana industries part, because we recognize that naturally, there are healthcare disparities in black and brown communities. And I think that’s being highlighted during this COVID 19 crisis. But we, you know, being at the table for those discussions, folks oftentimes will call on us to weigh in on other other discussions as it pertains to, you know, recreational adult use as it pertains to him. And so, we’ve expanded our programming to include other subject areas. But you know, we focus, excuse me. We have programs like our health as well, webinars, where we do a monthly webinar. We have a medical director, Dr. Joseph Rosato, our Associate Medical Director, Dr. Terrell Newton, and our director of clinical research, Dr. Monica Tang, the three of them get together on a monthly basis, and they do a webinar, you know, designed specifically for healthcare professionals. And again, while we market that, and we encourage black and brown physicians to, you know, come and learn more about the plant and how everything from how to dose it or how to infuse it into your practice those, excuse me, those are the focus of the the discussion that they have. But then we also have programs like ours, so the land and urban farmer, Herb environment, we pretty much are focusing on black and brown farmers who want to get into the hemp industry. So, you know, we have for the last probably a year and a half, two years, held a monthly webinar, just on the topic of hemp. And we brought in, you know, hemp growers, and processors, brokers, product manufacturers, really just kind of explaining every aspect of the hemp industry to you know, black and brown farmers and folks who want to get in on the inside so that they can understand where the access points are, where some of the challenges are, and how they can prepare themselves. So our programming really and truly is all about kind of helping folks take that first step and plant a firm foundation for themselves. We have our cannabis business licensing bootcamp where we’ve helped individuals in Missouri, Illinois, and even we got one coming up this month. For Massachusetts, where we’re helping folks really understand the application process for you know, getting a license, whether it be for a dispensary, a craft grow, or as it pertains to Massachusetts, their social equity, transportation license. So we walk folks through everything we bring in. You know, we bring in attorneys, we bring in accountants, we bring in folks who understand the business model, and just helping, you know, kind of cut through some of the red tape. Again, you won’t walk away from their, you know, having a complete, you know, business plan, but it is a working type bootcamp, to where you walk away from there. Have we really answered some of the questions that you need to answer to determine if it’s worth going after a license or whether you maybe need to pivot and partner with someone, or whether you have all the pieces you need? So, yeah, those are some of our programs, but we’ve also done things like community farms. Again, we work with a lot of legislators around the country, and we like to go into their districts after sessions and educate their districts about you know, how to obtain medical cannabis, legally, or recreational. How to have safe access, essentially. So, you know, again, we approach it from a holistic standpoint, we’re working on doing some things with research, focus, you know, very clearly on You know, health conditions and diseases that we see higher, you know, more highly prevalent in communities of color. So that’s kind of like our programming in a nutshell.

 

Adam Kulbach  15:12

Sounds great. You have a veteran’s program to.

 

Eric Grange  15:16

Absolutely. We’re very fortunate to have, I think two of the biggest veteran rock stars in the country. As a part of our, you know, our organization, Jose Belen is a veteran, he is, you know, become pretty popular now. He’s a part of the federal lawsuit to reschedule cannabis with Marvin Washington and cannabis cultural association. So he’s been going around, he sits on our board. And he, you know, really and truly helps us to understand what the needs of the veteran community are, and how we can better serve them. We also have Leo Bridgewater, who’s a rock star in New Jersey, and even outside of the state. You know, in fact, there are PTS bill, when he added PTSD to the conditions there, he was the primary person behind it. In fact, that DVD was named in the actual bill, you know, for that, and so, he serves as our national director of veteran outreach. And every month, he does a, like a moment of silence, if you will, you know, for the 22 veterans who we lose every day to veteran suicide, and so on. So, excuse me, you know, we, you know, see my veterans as minorities, we know, there are certainly minority demographics, represented in the veteran community. And so we look to serve them as best we can as well.

 

Adam Kulbach  16:47

It’s great, because you explain a little bit more about the learning series webinars that you have. And yeah, what exactly that is, and how people.

 

Eric Grange  16:59

So those are primarily for our membership. Although, you know, from time to time, we have opened those up to the general public. But we cover again, you know, usually in a little bit more in depth standpoint, for our members, some of the aspects of the industry, but then also just general, you know, good business practices, if you will, you know, for instance, we’ve done webinars on how to leverage LinkedIn, you know, to build your standing in the cannabis space to network and to make to create opportunities for yourself. We’ve had webinars on, you know, the tax side of things, so to A to E, we’ve had webinars on recently, you know, after the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve done a webinar for our members on how to apply for PPE, and, you know, take advantage of the different relief programs that are out there for small businesses and so on. So, you know, this is, again, one of our attempts to help our businesses not just, you know, get on boarded in the cannabis space, but really, truly create long term spent sustainability for themselves as a business, whether it be in cannabis or not.

 

Adam Kulbach  18:24

Many of our listeners just became aware of Juneteenth due to recent events, and many minds, a lot of people don’t know what that is, or was before recently, could you give us a short history lesson on that?

 

Eric Grange  18:41

Yeah, absolutely. So the crux of it is this. Everybody’s very familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation. And, you know, President Abraham Lincoln signed that into law, I believe. And, again, I apologize, I don’t have all of the dates right in front of me, I shouldn’t know this, but it was in January of the year, where he signed it. And it wasn’t until June of the following year, that the order was completely implemented. So as you know, many times in politics, a law can become a, you know, a bill can be written into law and, and it takes time for the implementation and rollout of that, whereas many flayed slaves were freed, you know, almost immediately or in the very shortly after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. It wasn’t until June 10, June 19 of the following year, after the signing of that proclamation, that the very lastly, slaves were free, and that was down in Texas, and it took for a general to actually go there in person to deliver the news and the message that slaves were now at this point. Feel free. So in the African American community, we typically don’t celebrate, you know, July January 2, when the Emancipation Proclamation was actually signed, we celebrate June 19, when all of the slaves were eventually freed. So that has really been a community celebration. And you know, across the country, different communities celebrate that differently. You know, after the murders of George Floyd and breonna, Taylor and others, this year, I think it really took a center stage, you know, to, you know, most Americans learning about what it was, and, you know, getting involved in different celebrations. And so, I think, as an African American, I’m certainly proud to see that others are, you know, becoming more educated about June 19, or affectionately called June teen. But, you know, we hope that, again, that this is more than just a moment, we hope that, you know, for everybody who celebrated this year, or, you know, companies, you know, decided to make it a company holiday. We’ll continue that tradition next year, and the year after and the year after, you know, we hope that this isn’t just a, you know, you know, photo op, if you will, that looks good for the time, but then kind of, you know, dissipates over time. So

 

Adam Kulbach  21:31

you had a recent event centered around that.

 

Eric Grange  21:34

Absolutely. With minorities for medical marijuana, we partnered with minority Cannabis Business Association, MC VA, and we held an event just last week, entitled more than a moment, we, we’ve recognized that at no other time in our history, has compensation really reached this boiling point that we’re seeing right now. So we’re very thankful for that we see it as an opportunity to really lay the groundwork for a cultural shift and change across the country, not just in, you know, cultural issues, but industry and business as well. And you know, speaking on behalf of the cannabis industry, she’s we we believe that cannabis industry should be a leader in that. And so, you know, our event was focused on how do we communicate to the cannabis industry, what it is, we want to see, we get, you know, since everything has kind of really taken a national center stage, if you will, you know, both minorities for medical marijuana and minority Cannabis Business Association, we’re probably, you know, the two prominent minority nonprofits in the cannabis space. And that’s not to take away from any of the other organizations who are, you know, doing great work. But we’ve been called on quite a bit, you know, my phone rings daily, or emails come through daily, folks want to know, how they can help how they can get involved, how we can, you know, partner together on different opportunities, and many times those are taken from this kind of one off approach, where, you know, the moment is hot right now, so let’s do something together. But, you know, then down the road, there’s no real structure in place for how this, you know, moves beyond just this current moment. And so, we wanted to take the time to talk about that to, you know, recognize and give tribute to the individuals who have lost their lives due to, you know, both the the police brutality as well as just the overall racial divide that we’re seeing, reach a boiling point in our country, and at the same time, not just dwell on the, the symptoms or diagnosing, if you will, but really being prescriptive and trying to talk about how do we move forward. And so, we laid out a list of different things that we want to see from cannabis media, you know, companies from cannabis, multi state operators from cannabis conferences, you know, from cannabis business associations, you know, what is it that you can do to signal to us as minorities in this space that you get, and that this is more than just a moment and that you’re looking to really set up a sound infrastructure for this to be a part of your identity moving forward and not just something that you know, as a fly by night kind of deal. So

 

Adam Kulbach  24:50

um, so So your next event is the Massachusetts cannabis business licensing Bootcamp on July 25. And could you tell us a little bit about that now, people might be able to take part.

 

Eric Grange  25:03

Yeah, absolutely. This came about because, well, we’ve been doing our cannabis licensing boot camps, we did about, I think, three to four last year. And those were focused primarily on cannabis grow operations and dispensaries, as Illinois opened up their application process, as well as Missouri, in New Jersey, as well. So those were focused on that side of the industry. But as you know, recently, or you may not know, the state of Massachusetts actually just opened up their licensing for social equity transportation licenses in the state. So they have a pretty robust social equity program there in Massachusetts, that they’re still working to implement and work out some kinks. But they are being very deliberate about creating opportunities for individuals who were previously incarcerated because of a cannabis conviction or, you know, people who come from those same communities as well. So they the application opened up on May 28, I believe, in for the next two years, there is the application is only open to social equity applicants. And so, you know, we want to make sure that we do whatever we can, as an organization, to see as many companies apply for that license, and to get that license, I think is a real opportunity for these businesses to get, you know, to gain market share, to really get themselves planted on a firm foundation, before the rest of the industry, or the market opens up. And, you know, that’s what we mean, when we talk about social equity. You know, I know for some, they may say it’s unfair. But when we talk about equity, we’re not talking about equality, we’re talking about being very deliberate about creating a, you know, priority for the communities who really and truly, you know, like I’ve said before, borne the brunt of prohibition, and the war on drugs. And so this isn’t about making it fair for everybody. This is very specifically about trying to write some of the wrongs of the past, and we can’t do all of it with just one program or one aspect of the program. But it does give us a, you know, an opportunity to begin to correct some of those those wrongs.

 

Adam Kulbach  27:36

How successful do you think social equity programs have been? So far? And where do you see that going?

 

Eric Grange  27:46

That’s a tough one, you know? Well, I’ll be frank, you know, they haven’t been as successful, as I think we that everyone would have hoped, you know, whether it be the individuals who actually created the program, were the individuals who it has, you know, tried to target, you know, in its efforts. It hasn’t been successful. And, you know, I think there are a number of reasons why that is. I think one of the biggest reasons is because many times groups, like minorities, for medical marijuana, or NCBA are not, we’re a second thought, when it comes to involving us on crafting those type of programs. And so rather than really getting stakeholders involved from the front end, many times these programs are created without us in order to target us. And so that’s what, you know, been one of the issues. Another issue is that the programs have been well intentioned, but not well implemented. And, you know, many times, you know, I’ll give you a case in point. While this isn’t a social equity program. In Florida, we were successful in getting written into law, diversity language, which requires our license holders to have a diversity brand and address diversity in equity, their staffing their contracting. But you know, where Mr. Morgan was, there was no agency oversight given to the diversity language, meaning the health department which oversees the medical marijuana program, has no authority to enforce the diversity language, they can only accept and review the plans, but if a company doesn’t adhere to their plan, there’s really no recourse for that. And so, you know, that’s just a glowing example of how many programs are designed to where without the proper oversight without the proper infrastructure in place. You know, you missed the mark as well as when you look at you know, again, going back to the the license to cannabis license and bootcamps that we do need some of the social equity pro programs have these type of training programs involved, some of them don’t. And, but we have to include in social equity, the understanding and idea and the infrastructure for training and retooling individuals who’ve been incarcerated to run businesses. I mean, you just think about what it you know, what life is like after you’ve been incarcerated, whether it be for cannabis or any other offense, when you come out, you know, obtaining employment is difficult, and let alone obtain meaningful employment. And, you know, God forbid, you were lucky enough to find employment that allows you to be in a managerial role or operational executive role. You know, so the skill sets, many times are not there. And so we have to do what we can to help build those skill sets in the communities we’re looking to target. And then, you know, the other part of it is, we also and this is, this will be the final point I make about social equity, is we have to expand the program, we have to expand our understanding of what social equity is. And I like to get people to begin with thinking about how pervasive the war on drugs was, how pervasive prohibition policies really work for communities of color. It wasn’t just that marijuana was outlawed. It was in addition to that, it you know, where we saw mandatory minimums and, you know, three strikes are out and stop and frisk policies, all of these are really, you know, the types of policies that were implemented at the state and local level, in order to carry out the war on drugs, you know, and so, those things have to be mitigated. So you have to look at decriminalization, you have to look at expungement. But it goes deeper in the net, you know, if you had a marijuana conviction, you couldn’t get access to public housing. So, you know, many folks weren’t able, so from a housing standpoint, we have to look at how are we, you know, addressing what the war on drugs did, from a housing standpoint, from an employment standpoint, from a community infrastructure standpoint? Excuse me. Schools, you know, how did the War on Drugs impact our schools, when you have kids going to school, and one parent is in jail? And the mother is, you know, on minimum wage, how does that impact the success of that school? And what do we do? You know, and what part of that is blamed on the war on drugs? So, you know, I advocate for us looking, you know, at a much more holistic standpoint, looking at how we’re setting up social equity programs, how can we create programs that address some of these issues, you know, taking tax dollars to earmark to, you know, rebuilding failing schools and rebuilding community infrastructure, helping to bring back the tax base to those communities. So these are things that I think have to be done in order for us to see much greater success when it comes to social equity.

 

Adam Kulbach  33:23

Have you ever seen any improvements at all? Or has it gotten worse, or?

 

Eric Grange  33:29

I think it’ll improve? I do think is improving, and I think it will improve. I’m one of those people who are, I guess, a forever optimist. So I don’t, I don’t naturally look at failure as a bad thing. I look at it as a learning opportunity. So when we look at the programs that are out there, and are not doing well, that gives us an opportunity to evaluate them to assess them, and to look at what we do differently moving forward. So, you know, I’m, you know, very optimistic, and I think some states are doing that. I think we are seeing, you know, legislation and language, excuse me, that is evolving, that is changing. And, you know, as that happens, and as we put in place the proper oversight infrastructure to make these programs successful. undoubtably, I think we’ll see greater success and, you know, minorities for medical marijuana, we’re gonna be at the table regardless fighting to make sure that that happens.

 

Adam Kulbach  34:34

So what what role should cannabis companies play in social equity?

 

Eric Grange  34:40

Absolutely. First and foremost, recognizing that you are existing in an industry that has very clearly destroyed certain communities. And also recognizing that because we are such a new industry, we have an opportunity and is It’s a choice that we have to make as to what type of industry, we want to be, you know, I love to highlight groups like Trulieve, who was one of our corporate partners with minorities, medical marijuana, but they get it, you know, Kim rivers, the CEO, I truly believe it’s a part of who she is as a core. And I think whether our organization existed or not, she would be a good steward of the industry. And we would be looking for ways to enhance the communities that they exist in. And so, you know, she laid out some really good, and you know, Trulieve is the most profitable company in the US right now. And some of the things that she did, I think, really, truly our model for other cannabis companies, first and foremost, when she looked for a headquarters, and she looked for building out the infrastructure of her company from a manufacturing and, you know, grow space and so on, she deliberately identified a minority, a majority minority community, and was very deliberate in locating in that community so that she could impact them and change their lives. from a community standpoint, even if they weren’t, you know, owning in the industry. She’s the largest employer, they are in that community now. And that means tremendous amount for those individuals there. She contributes to the tax base, obviously, by being located there. So those are things that I think large scale companies can certainly look into. But you know, other companies, you know, I’ve encouraged them, take a look at your board, take a little look at your leadership teams, are they reflective of diversity? Or is there room for you to add someone to your team, who was from a diverse background, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to add them specifically for diversity and inclusion, you know, issues, minorities have a tremendous amount of value that they can bring to this industry, from everything from product development, to engineering to doctors, lawyers. And so there’s no need to only pigeonhole minority experts and professionals into diversity roles, you can certainly include them in many other areas that can bring bring value to your company, I think for every cannabis company, look at your community engagement, how are you engaging with the communities you exist in, whether they’re minority or not, but then having a very deliberate program to engage minority communities as well. And using that as a way to give back or to add value to that community. And, you know, those are to me a couple of low hanging fruit, you know, working with groups, like minorities, for my medical marijuana, to identify talent for your pipeline for your your, the roles that you need to fill in your organization. And that’s not to say that you will just hire minorities, just because we want you to increase the number of minorities in your applicant pool. That way we can, you know, you can see very clearly, you know, we want you to hire the best people, we just have to believe that minorities can be a part of that, you know, that group of cream of the crop, if you will. So those are all things you can do. And then also, I think every cannabis company should have a social equity initiative, period, you know, you should be looking in some way to have some initiative to give back to individuals and communities who really and truly were, you know, they were the ones who were over police who, you know, all of those different social ills that I mentioned a few minutes, a few minutes ago. They’re the ones who are currently a you know, and historically have lived these truths. And so I think every cannabis company can do something, whether that be, you know, a sliding fee scale for their products, whether that be hosting and sponsoring events, you know, community level events, like health fairs, you know, doing things like that, I think, really, truly add value to the community, while at the same time, giving you an opportunity to engage with that community, to you know, maybe one day they become your customers and so on. So, I think that’s something that every cannabis company can do.

 

Adam Kulbach  39:33

will return to the higher end lightning podcast in the moment. Do you need help in applying for a cannabis business license? Do you have questions about the process? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Good news. higher yields cannabis consulting can help. Our cannabis licensing experts offer industry leading support for all cannabis related businesses. Our team of experienced application writers has worked on over one 100 cannabis license applications, higher yields has worked on regulations in cannabis licensing in over 25 states, across the USA, and internationally in more than 10 countries. We’ve also helped our clients be awarded licenses 13 Plus married bass states. If you need assistance with cannabis licensing process, don’t hesitate to call us. Our initial consultation is free, please call 844 high yield, or visit our website at WWW dot higher yields consulting.com, we now return to the higher enlightenment podcast brought to you by higher yields cannabis consulting. It sounds like even from a cold economic viewpoint, it sounds like to diversity can actually help on a bottom line economically, you know, instead of being excluding certain people, it’s not really good for business.

 

Eric Grange  41:10

Absolutely. You know, when I talk about social equity, I know most people think of it as you know, almost, you know, the old corporate social responsibility. And certainly that is a part of it. But one of the things that we as an organization have been doing over the past couple of years is reframing the compensation for executives and boards, we get it. We are not anti capitalist, we recognize that people, you know, enter into this industry in order to make money and and, you know, businesses operate, you know, to satisfy their shareholders and their bottom line. And, you know, we don’t see those as necessarily bad things. But what we’re are challenging companies to do is to move beyond this model of the business model of, you know, here are my expenses, and here are my costs, and what is my you know, in my initial investment for what is my return on investment, and only looking at the dollars, and on the bottom line, we believe that every company could move beyond that and look at what what is the social impact that we’re having with our company. And that is something that can be measured, that is something that, you know, again, to your shareholders can be become valuable. And it’s not just looking at your bottom line. So I think moving in that model, is helpful. I think there’s also ways to do that and make money. I think, you know, communities of color, are very loyal to those companies who add value to their community who are not just there to do business, but they’re there to do good. And I think that is something that is certainly a part of the discussion. And so, you know, there’s ways to make money, doing social equity, I used to work for an environmental engineering firm, and the owner of the company always said that, you know, wherever we have, the greatest need is where we also have the greatest opportunity. And so, you know, looking at ways to, you know, really infuse that into our thinking as a, as companies is going to be key to it. And you know, I’ll give a very clear cut example of that, when I worked for the environmental engineering firm, you know, my role was created as a community engagement director. And very specifically, what I would do is whenever we would receive a contract, or even before that, when we would bid for a contract, we would always include a value add. So we say to the city or the county we’re applying to, if you give us this contract, we will do this, we will go into that community, we will identify 20, you know, minority, young youth, individuals who didn’t go to college, maybe have been arrested, we’ll put them through a training program, and we’ll help them and we’ll give them a certification. You know, whether it be OSHA or what else, and we’ll give them some on the on the job experience, we’ll take them out into the field, let them get their hands on. And we’ll help them to identify job opportunities in this space. And we’ll do that just for you giving us the contract. And so that became a value add and one of the things that allowed us to win contracts, while at the same time, you know, giving us an opportunity to do good in those communities. So again, we added value to the community and to the city, while at the same time we were making money, so that’s a good way to look at it.

 

Adam Kulbach  44:54

Okay, we also have a question from Mercedes woods. Who has a question relating to that. Mercedes.

 

Mercedes Woods  45:03

Hey, so my question is, a lot of obviously, there are large cannabis businesses out there now and, and bigger corporations, but there’s a lot of still small businesses as well. And a lot of those from experience as being a manager at a smaller dispensary. You kind of get a lot on your plate, when it comes to, you know, doing inventory, managing your team, helping buttoned and also doing the hiring and vetting and things like that. And for me, personally, I did hire a lot of minorities, just because my degree is in sociology. And I was aware of that and wanted to make sure that, you know, I made that impact for that company. But what would be your suggestion for maybe people who don’t have that background and have a lot on their plate? And how do we make, make some of these smaller shops and managers who are doing a lot more aware of this situation as well?

 

Eric Grange  46:03

Absolutely, we get that standing up in operation. And even once it stood up to manage that operation, is no small feat, we completely understand that there’s a lot on hand, this is why we encourage people, even during the application phase, really build this into your model, so that it doesn’t become a secondary thought. And that it you know, it’s much easier to implement these things on the front end, to you know, then to come back on the back end and look at ways to do that. But, you know, again, for those companies who already exist, or are already in that space, one of the things I would recommend, is hire a consultant, you know, when it comes to these particular things, and those are ways that you can certainly connect with, you know, experts, without having to take on the full burden of, you know, trying to navigate through this, trying to understand that, you know, here at higher yields, one of the things, you know, that I’ve been brought on to do as a consultant with the company is to help to develop this, you know, for companies, and so that, you know, higher yields, we help a lot of companies from a variety of different consulting standpoint. And so this is one of the areas that I think we can also be helpful in. So, you know, providing companies with the assistance of developing an internal structure, you know, and framework for themselves, so that they have diversity at the top of mind, that they are looking at ways to give back to communities. You know, so hiring consultant is a great way of doing that. But then, you know, if you are unable to do that, you know, look at the low hanging fruit, we’re not asking people to try to save the world. You know, we’re asking people to look at your, your sphere of influence your sphere of privilege, and see what is it that you could be doing. And for some organizations, that may just be as simple as saying, you know, what, all I can do at this time, is become a corporate partner of minorities for medical marijuana, and that’s fine. And then, you know, through our work, you guys are doing good. So that’s another way of doing it. And then, you know, there’s also taking, you know, say, for instance, if you’re a dispensary, you know, looking at how you can engage with minority companies to maybe take a percentage of your shelf space, you know, and dedicate to them. And again, that’s still no easy feat, because you have to identify the minority brands, you have to vet them, you have to, you know, still do inventory and the whole nine. But again, I think consultants can be very useful in that. And if you’re in a really good place, I would say hire someone specifically for that, you know, hire a person who can come in, you know, to your team, and specifically focus on those types of things, your supplier diversity, your, you know, contracts that you do with, you know, minority brands, and so on. So, those are all, I think, some ways that I think can be helpful. But again, you know, reaching out to groups like minorities for medical marijuana, MC BA, and again, there’s others, those that can help cut through some of the red tape three.

 

Mercedes Woods  49:30

Awesome, thank you. Yeah, I definitely have some ideas, you know, just off of your response of how to get some of these smaller companies more involved and just reaching out to them personally and giving them the information of, of your organization. And, you know, seeing if there’s anything that we can do to help them or if they have any,

 

Eric Grange  49:55

and let me say this as well, Mercedes, I think this is another key part. work that I should have mentioned as well. mentorship, if you are, you know, my, my, when I worked for the environmental engineering firm, we had a very interesting system. And again, it’s a, it takes some serious series interest in the subject. And, you know, it’s not something for the faint of heart, let me put it that way. He had a system where he required all of his workers to spend 80% of their time on company business, and then another 20%, you know, donating time or volunteering are working with, you know, different groups, you know, diverse groups, and as a way of giving back, so, you know, whereas they didn’t designate any specific budget, you know, to the company itself doing something, they empowered the workers to be able to do something on an individual bases as well. And then he, as the CEO, dedicated a period of a portion of his time, to taking smaller businesses and just mentoring those individuals, you know, once a month going out for lunch, and, you know, answering questions and helping to just help that business get off on the right foot. Those are things that I think CEOs and corporate executives of these companies can do, you know, create a, you know, a time each month, where you can just give back to a smaller business who’s trying to navigate through this, you know, what does it look like to negotiate a partnership deal? Excuse me, what does it look like to, you know, handle or set up a good system? What are some of the tools you use for inventory management? Those are all things that minorities, you know, are looking for that type of assistance, or somebody, they could just call up or text and say, Hey, listen, I’m really struggling with this idea, or this issue? You know, do you have any advice for me, those things go so far that, again, it doesn’t cost you anything, but your time. And again, time is valuable, I get that part. But those are things that I think a low hanging fruit that folks can do.

 

Keith  52:09

I have a question. As we know, with, you know, the viral pandemic going on the racial pandemic, declared by the CDC, both of them you know, the cold combination of culture wars, crashing economy, sounded really positive here. But you know, we’re in some bad times right now. And eventually we’re going to come out of it. And it seems like a lot of these municipalities and states and the country itself may be leaning pretty heavily on the cannabis industry. To help recover economic recovery there. The question I have is they are going to be expanding already existing cannabis programs, as well as creating new ones in some of the states that have nothing. So naturally, that’s going to play into expanding social equity programs. And I’ve seen states like New Jersey and some other states. People are demanding that social equity be expanded both and I guess a new numerical way. And also in fixing and making these programs a little better. Do any know anything about that? If you were looking to the future a little bit?

 

Eric Grange  53:38

What? Yeah, we’re having a lot of discussions on again, what we think that should look like. There are a couple. Now more than ever, there are more research sources and conversations out there about what social equity is how to approach it, what you know, we think works, what doesn’t work so far. In fact, I just contributed a section to a book entitled understanding social equity, where the the initial organizer, he probably corralled about 15 thought leaders on the subject of social equity, and allow each of them to address it, you know, in this book, and so you have a variety of different viewpoints and ideas and, you know, comments, questions, all of those things that have been presented in that book. And so I think states have now greater resources than they did before. I do think that as we look at expanding social equity, I think one of the ways we also have to look at very quickly is you know, in states where we have medical programs, the social equity has primarily been tied to the the adult use recreational side of the business. You Not so much on the medical side, you are seeing in some states like Florida, where initially we did have one set aside licensed for the MediCal program that was to go to a black farmer, which to date still has not been awarded. And then you have others who have kind of given you a few extra points on the application for, you know, the, for social equity, if you will. But, you know, for the most part, it has been absent from the medical side of the industry. And I think there’s real opportunity for us there. To meet a need, again, like I said, where we have the greatest need, we also have the greatest opportunity. COVID-19, really, I think, you know, highlighted for a lot of people, the healthcare disparities that exist in black and brown communities, African Americans are so much more higher prevalence or has has a higher prevalence of getting COVID-19. And obviously, less access to health care and quality health care, to be able to deal with it. And so death rates have been higher in African American community, Hispanic communities. While at the same time, you have the cannabis industry that has deemed medical marijuana businesses essential. And many of them don’t exist in communities of color, and many of them are unaffordable for communities of color. So I think there’s a real opportunity there on the medical side, to issue licenses to or micro business licenses to minorities, for this very specific purpose of medical marijuana to service and serve communities of color. Very deliberately, meaning, you know, giving licenses to, for instance, the Illinois Yeah, tons of people, you know, I’m sorry, to Missouri, tons of people who applied for a license and didn’t get one. And, you know, they have done everything I need to do from a. And then part of the reason I didn’t get one because it was competitive. So it was only a certain number of licenses given out, that doesn’t mean that the application wasn’t a wasn’t satisfactory, it just didn’t beat out those other organizations. And so I think there’s tremendous room to give licenses to companies who are ready to go, ready to become operational, to go into communities of colors, and and, you know, really establish a medical program that is aimed at really closing that healthcare disparity that we see are, you know, exist across the entire healthcare spectrum. But we’re seeing very much play out in the cannabis, medical side of things as well. So there are tons of ways to expand the program, I do think we will see lots of expansion, a lot of states are looking to try new things. And again, I hope that we’ll begin to expand even further, you know, into the, you know, other aspects of how we fix some of the war on drugs, or the hills called by caused by the war on drugs.

 

Keith  58:07

I am actually a felon, I went to prison for cultivating marijuana, which in the state of Pennsylvania is really one charge manufacturing with intent to deliver, distribute. And I saw both sides of that, you know, going to prison wasn’t fun. I did see the privilege, I got both in the courtroom, I was looking at a mandatory minimum of three to seven years. And I got 110 days. And basically, the judge told me since I was hard working on the business, basically was telling me since I was white, you know, that I was lucky, I was only gonna get the 110 days. And the gentleman behind me was a young African American man, and he got caught with a couple of joints and a cigarette pack. And he got more time than I did. And it’s kind of stuck with me. It’s made me feel really bad. So that was about a little over a decade ago. And just wondering, I have feelings about like even Illinois that’s trying to do the right thing. Why are there still going to be some people on marijuana offenses in jail? Why do you think that is? Why do you think states will just go all the way and do the right thing?

 

Eric Grange  59:36

Yeah. One, let me say this, I think the the example you just highlighted about the privilege that you were afforded is why a lot of people in the cannabis space you know, and myself included, traditionally believed that social equity programs aren’t designed specifically for you, but for the individual came back behind you, who didn’t receive that privilege. But that’s not to say that we are against folks like yourself, you know, being able to participate in this industry and use social equity as a way of, you know, kind of getting your feet wet or, you know, developing a firm foundation. But I think the spirit of what social equity is about is that that guy who came behind you, and who received a much longer sentence, because, again, this was, you know, this is this is still policy, if you will, you know, albeit in the judicial system, the policy is to enact harsher sentences on black and brown people, regardless of the offense, and regardless of if, you know, others are creating the same offense, and, you know, having the opportunity to have a lighter sentence. And so, you know, I say that to also lead into part of the reason why states are reluctant to just outright, you know, expunge records for people who have, you know, nonviolent misdemeanor cannabis possession charges is because, you know, the prison industrial complex is a is a huge, huge industry. I mean, you know, most people, you know, when we think about lobbyist, we think about the NRA, or, you know, folks who are on either side of abortion and so on, who spent for the tobacco industry, people, you know, organizations who spend millions of dollars to lobby, but the prison industry spends millions of dollars to lobby as well. And so, you know, laws and rules have been written very deliberately, to create that very system that played out right before your eyes, where minorities are locked up and given longer sentences, because then the prison system is able to capitalize on that worker, you know, it becomes free labor, most people are not aware that, you know, slavery does still exist in our Constitution. If you are incarcerated, you know, that, that is very clear, where when we abolish slavery, it also reads that, unless, and this is a paraphrasing, not exact language, you know, except for in a case where someone has been, you know, incarcerated. So once you have been convicted of a crime, you are incarcerated, you can legally become a slave, and you have systems in place that, you know, private businesses are able to take advantage of, you know, these workers to create products, not even just, you know, building roads, you know, most people think about, you know, the chain gains, you know, building roads and railroads and that type of stuff. But you now have companies who, you know, hire prison labor and sweatshops to create clothing to create technology to create, you know, products, and these workers are giving a given a wage that is, you know, just deplorable, and then they’re turned around, and they’ve given this wage so that they can then turn around and pay for services, like phone services. So to make a phone call home, prison prices are higher than if you were to make a collect call to, you know, to another country. And so the money that they make, or that they earn, quote, unquote, you know, through this prison labor is turned around and really taken away from them, and high priced, you know, services that they have to pay for, you know, they get, you know, you have big companies in the food industry, that serve as prisons that turn around and provide prisons with, you know, the worst of their food, you know, supply, they have the worst of, you know, they take what they wouldn’t serve, sell to, say, a university that hired them to run their cafeteria, and they sell that to the prisons, and that’s what prisoners are forced to eat. So it is big, big, big, big business, on the prison side, and to just do away with that. Most states and legislators and governors would have a very hard fight on their hand to make that happen. You know, and so there’s a lot of reasons why people won’t do the right thing. But, you know, it all goes back to, you know, some form of ways that it’s impacting the economy.

 

Adam Kulbach  1:04:59

Yeah, we have another Question for Mercedes.

 

Mercedes Woods  1:05:02

Um, so that’s just kind of goes to what you were just talking about about, you know, companies using prison labor basically, for their products. I’ve seen some lists provided of some of these companies that do do that. How do we make this more information more readily available? I mean, obviously to the world is kind of a big task. But just to start, here in our own industry, I mean, I know companies use these products in the cannabis industry, and how do we kind of make a stance as an industry to stop using these products where we can and promote better, you know, better products that aren’t, aren’t using this prison labor and kind of make a stance and put some pressure on these companies themselves to stop to stop using prison laborers, or a whole industry is going to not use them anymore?

 

Eric Grange  1:05:56

Absolutely, I think that is a very worthy cause. And I think, again, that’s another one of the ways that cannabis companies can be a part of this social equity discussion. Again, you know, companies that have, you know, strong marketing teams can develop a marketing, you know, campaigns specifically around that, you know, and using it as a way to say, you know, that the cannabis industry, and prohibition lead to these type of situations, and as an industry, we are going to stand up for communities who bore the brunt of this, and I think that’s a great way of having that discussion. And, but it really takes us calling, you know, calling into attention, again, minority companies, or minority nonprofits and advocates, you know, we’ve talked about this stuff for for years now. And really, what we need are, you know, entrenched allies, who are willing to step up, and, you know, put that out there as well, you know, as a, you know, nonprofit in the space, minorities for medical marijuana, I will go as far as to say that, you know, we’d have a difficult time taking on the prison industry alone, you know, we, the resources that they can bring to bear or, you know, far outweigh what we can bring to bear. And so certainly, we can speak up and call them to task for it. But, you know, we were calling we have a call to action and as a call in versus a call out. And so, you know, for the cannabis industry, we want, we want people to come in and say, you know, listen, let’s work together on this, you know, minorities for medical marijuana, and my company, let’s work together to call out these companies that have taken advantage of prison labor, you know, because we don’t believe that. That’s right. So

 

Keith  1:07:56

I was wondering if you could explain the Latin X program, you have minorities for medical marijuana.

 

Eric Grange  1:08:06

So Latin X is a term that, you know, pretty much derived in the Community of Latin folks, in particular, and millennials and younger generation of Latin X citizens who really they tackle a host of different issues that pertain to, you know, that are more prevalent in the Latin communities, you know, as it pertains to immigration, also, health care, and so on. So there’s not, it’s not a, you know, a centralized movement, if you will, you’ll find Latinx groups across the club, you know, across the country, that are, you know, doing very much, excuse me, what we’re doing with minorities, for medical marijuana, and just really seeking to be at the table, and have our voices heard, when it comes to issues that impact our communities. And so, you know, as an organization, we believe in all diversity. And so our Latin X program, which we actually are having to revamp just a little bit, we lost our national director. And again, this is one of those things that is unfortunate, but it’s a reality in our space. Many minorities who get into this space, in particular, on the advocacy side, you know, we depend on folks, you know, to make donations, we depend on corporate partnerships and so on. And when that doesn’t happen, at the pace that we need it, we end up having to go back into the working class, you know, working and not spending all of our time and attention on these issues, and being at the table, because we have families to feed. And so that’s something that, you know, unfortunately, our organization hasn’t, you know, been immune to where we’ve lost good people, good advocates, because they simply had to, you know, kind of Uh, take some take a step back and reevaluate and refocus without having really any real opportunities in the cannabis space for them, you know, that will allow them to feed their families, you know, they have to make some hard decisions. And so our program, you know, we were still looking to kind of come back at that, but it was all about outreaching, to the latin community, as it pertains to cannabis issues that, you know, impacted the latin community. So, again, from an employment standpoint, from contracts, getting Latin companies, business owners involved with contracts, making sure that the latin community is aware of the medical efficacy of the plant. Because again, healthcare disparities exist in their communities as well. So it’s really just an extension of what we already do into the latin community.

 

Keith  1:10:59

Thanks, thanks so

 

John Valdez  1:11:00

much for your what, what is your opinion on opportunity zones and things like that for the the community, I have my own opinion on it, but I want to hear any myths on the

 

Eric Grange  1:11:12

I love opportunity zones, when they’re done with that with the right intentions, let me say it that way, I wanted to take somebody with, you know, we’ve seen already with opportunity zones, as people who are already going to make an investment in an area for, say, a high rise building or, you know, big corporate building, they’re taking advantage advantage of the opportunity zone, you know, credits when they don’t really need them. And they they, you know, really, truly, we’re going to make that investment, regardless of the opportunity zone or not. For what for this, but very specifically for the cannabis space. You know, this is what I’ve encouraged companies to do, when they’re looking at where to locate again, you know, going back to what I said about Kim rivers, and truly, very deliberately, you know, existing in communities that qualify as opportunity zones. From that standpoint, you know, obviously, from a company standpoint, it makes good business sense, because you get to take advantage of the tax breaks that are associated there, which I think phenomenal. But then, at least from a community standpoint, that community gets so much more from, they get a partner and in the community in terms of jobs, if you’re very deliberate about that, like I said, Truly, there’s now the largest employer in Gaston County where they exist. And they didn’t just import their, you know, workers, you know, they were very deliberate in identifying workers on the ground, and bringing them in, offering them higher wages, offering them training, those type of things. So I think opportunity zones are a great way. And I think, from a legislative standpoint, I’d love to see states and even local communities require companies that come into the area and take advantage of opportunity zones, to have, you know, certain percentages are required requirement of hiring certain percentages from the local population, or from communities that, you know, could benefit the most. So, those are things that we already do when it comes to, you know, city and county levels. When you have a what do you call it a Minority Business Initiative, where they award contracts, a certain percentage of the city contracts, go to minority contractors, and so on. These are the types of approach again, this isn’t, you know, we’re not reinventing the wheel. These are things that are already done in other industries. That makes sense for the cannabis industry. And I think, you know, for communities, and city councils, and so on, who are considering bringing in large scale cannabis companies, these are ways that the community can make sure that it gets a win out of having that company located there. So I’m a huge advocate for opportunity zones, if they’re done with with the right intentions.

 

John Valdez  1:14:20

Yeah, I agree with you 100%. On that I see opportunity zones being abused quite a bit. Because of the real estate sector, not only the cannabis sector, but the just the real estate world, you’re seeing these huge development companies coming in, that don’t need those opportunities that somebody else should be taken advantage of. Do you feel that they should put more restrictions on these opportunity zones, making like you were saying, you know, like contracts, government contracts, you need to have 4540 48% minority on campus, I think at Denver International Airport is what they require. Do you think that they should put more of a restriction

 

Eric Grange  1:14:55

on that? Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, when you are anytime you’re looking to revitalize a community, which, you know, is the, one of the reasons for the opportunity zone, you have to make sure that that community, that we aren’t just extracting resources from that community, but we’re pouring resources into that community. And so I absolutely believe that that is, you know, vital, in fact, I’m talking to one of my clients about their community, they want to exist in it. And that’s what we’re looking to do is go directly to the city council. And even though it may cost the company more, explain to the city council, here’s how you can get a win, you know, for this opportunity zone. And I do think, you know, putting restrictions on a requirement to hire a certain number of people, or restrictions on, you know, a certain portion of your contracts or subcontracts going to, excuse me, minority contractors, and businesses, those are all smart things to do. And many times when they exist, there’s already disparity studies that have been done that, you know, recognize the need for these types of, you know, set asides and special programs. You know, that’s on the legal side, where folks, you know, communities have to be very careful, and making sure that they demonstrated the need for this special program. But, you know, again, I put a lot of I challenge companies themselves, just be good stewards of the industry. You know, I think both government and business has a responsibility to do that. And so I think businesses are also thinking, you know, about that, you know, we shouldn’t have to require you by law to do the right thing, you know, you should want to do that. And, you know, again, I think we’ve already discussed a little bit how it’s not just a, it’s not a loss leader, it doesn’t just mean that you’re spending money, you can do this in a smart way and still make money and it can be a part of your model. So that’s what I’m hoping, you know, cannabis businesses will do, and I, of course, hope that legislators will be very, you know, deliberate and creative and making sure that these communities also are able to benefit.

 

John Valdez  1:17:27

Speaking of location, have you? Have you ever dealt with like setbacks and things like that?

 

Eric Grange  1:17:33

That are not directly? I’m familiar with them? Not myself directly.

 

John Valdez  1:17:39

Okay. Because when I was gonna ask was, Do you feel like they’re sort of biased in the, and the communities that were Lodi opportunity zones, because of the way they’re set up? If they’re sitting there, this is my opinion, they’re not set up to for communities of color. You have a lot of daycare facilities, you have a working class families that are going to work. And there’s a lot more things when the setbacks aren’t set properly. I don’t think but I was just wondering, do you have any opinion

 

Eric Grange  1:18:07

on that? Yeah, I mean, it the reality of it, I think what you said is very key, I mean, opportunity zones only become really beneficial to an investor when you have, you know, 100k plus to invest, right, which we know very clearly, most minority businesses that exist in opportunity zones, don’t have that, which is partly why that community is an opportunity zone to begin with. But then that’s where again, I think it’s important that investors look at, you know, helping businesses in those communities to expand, to look at, you know, for the cannabis space, I think from a social equity standpoint, this is a great opportunity, if you’re a cannabis investor, and you’re saying, Okay, how can I one, have an investment that, you know, has a decent return on, you know, from a financial standpoint, but also has that social impact? And then also has a way for me to mitigate the risk of my investment, right? Because, again, you know, investors want to make money, they don’t want to lose money. And I think the opportunity’s own can accomplish all three of those. Because the way that is set up, it becomes a, you know, a tax deferment vehicle for you. And so investing in a minority business, you know, again, I’m in the process of right now. You know, I have a company that I just started, we received three hemp licenses here in the state of Florida. We want to bid out build out a facility, I would love for an investor to say, you know, hey, you know, I’ll put in the money to build the facility so that I can get that, you know, tax break. And then you know, we lease out the building to you for a number of years and give you an opportunity to purchase the building down the road. Those are ways that again, I think are very smart and, you know, good ways to partner and solves a problem from minority standpoint, you know, myself included and for, as I guess, as visible as I am in the space, you know, raising money, it’s not easy, and I don’t think it’s easy for anybody, but, you know, minorities have a particularly rough go at it. And but I think, again, opportunity zones, really, truly provide, you know, a way for businesses to, you know, take advantage of that, and at the same time, support a minority business and make money and, you know, protect their investment.

 

John Valdez  1:20:36

Thank you. Appreciate your information.

 

Eric Grange  1:20:39

Absolutely.

 

Keith  1:20:42

When I first heard about social equity is before I was in the cannabis industry, but when I first heard about it in the cannabis industry, I learned it from a technical aspect, I feel like there are two different aspects to social equity. There’s the technical part that exists that you put into a license application. And that that, to me, is a different arena, then the reform and the advocacy and the more social side of social equity. Would you agree and, you know, there’s two different schools there. And I feel like there’s two different skill sets?

 

Eric Grange  1:21:27

Well, I think we have to remember that even what you’ve seen in applications, the technical side of it was born out of the advocacy side of things that really truly were, you know, were developed from, you know, folks who from initially from a social aspect, you know, so wanted to participate in the industry, but saw that there were no opportunities. And I think, you know, like I mentioned before, we have to broaden our understanding of social equity. And I think part of the reason why some of the programs have missed the mark, because because they have to prevalently too heavily focused on licensing, meaning just getting a license, but not recognizing that there are tons of, you know, most of the social ills that I highlighted from, you know, the housing issue, the the employment issue, all of those things, stem from policy, you know, in terms of prohibition and the war on drugs and so on. And so yeah, I think from a technical standpoint, the application process is very technical. So that’s why you, you know, primarily only heard of it from the technical aspect. But, again, I as we expand beyond that, and look at, you know, all of the ways, like for instance, there should need to be an application process for companies to work with minority business owners, you know, minority business owner may be a cleaning service. And right now, during COVID-19, you need someone who can provide a very thorough cleaning service on a regular basis. That type of contract is huge for a company. And that person may or may not have ever been arrested for cannabis, that’s just a minority business. But from a social equity standpoint, recognizing that that person may have come from a community that was over policed because of war on drugs, it all ends up tying it together. So it’s all woven together. I think right now, again, there’s more focus on the application. So you see a lot with the technical side. But I think as we expand even more, you’ll still see that technical side as we talk about applying for the different components that require licensing. But there gonna be other aspects that don’t require licensing, that won’t maybe mention social equity, in the technical application or something like that, you know, like opportunity zones, have nothing to do with social equity in the cannabis space. But it should very much be a part of social equity policy, if that makes sense. So, I think there’s gonna be a lot more that we see beyond the technical side, and then, you know, from a social side, you know, we see that as well and we need to create safe spaces and environments for people to consume cannabis. We need to, you know, consider affordability. We need to consider the consumer and decide in this whole process as well.

 

Adam Kulbach  1:24:40

It’s kind of always the same thing with our legislation. It always seems like the people who aren’t who don’t live in the communities who don’t go to prison who have gobs of money or gobs of money backing them or making the laws which I think, is really some people they’re missing the point it’s it’s literally systematic racism, it’s, it’s it’s the same system we’ve been fighting against, I feel like it’s showing up in the cannabis industry.

 

Eric Grange  1:25:15

Yeah. And not just in the legislation. That’s also, I mean, you have cannabis companies out there and nonprofits that are popping up now, to try to address social equity and other diversity issues, who have no standing or background or even connection to the communities they are, quote unquote, seeking to serve. And, you know, unfortunately, what we’ve seen, and this is what we again, we hope to see things begin to change and attire to turn my group minorities for medical marijuana NCBA, again, probably the two most recognizable minority nonprofits in the space fighting for social equity and diversity issues, you know, you would think that given everything that’s going on, hooked with the rest ratio pandemic, that our phones will be blowing up. And people are, you know, money is just being thrown our way. Instead, what we see are, you know, other nonprofits who, you know, the big companies are saying, Hey, listen, we just donated 10,000, or 250,000, to this group, to do what they’re doing. And what they’re doing is very worthy causes, you know, like expungements, like, you know, accelerators, and so on. But it’s completely overlooking groups like us who have been on the ground with, you know, shoestring budgets, doing the actual work, who have built, you know, strong relationships, and community ties in these communities. And so the same thing happens at the legislative level, where you have these cannabis companies who are well capitalized, they put a lot of money into lobbying. And so of course, they want to do you know, the right thing, and I won’t say that is, ill intention, you know, I think many of them are well, meaning, but again, they have no real standing or background or connection to the community, to be able to really know what the needs are and how to address those needs. And so then you’re seeing legislation that is well intentioned, but not well implemented, or not completely addressing the problem. And so, you know, I definitely want to see that change. You know, and I would love for groups who have an interest in working in this space, you know, if you’re a company that has lots of money, and you contribute lots of money to, you know, social, or I’m sorry, to cannabis lobbying, you know, spend a little money to support groups like Drug Policy Alliance, and, you know, our group minorities for medical marijuana, who, you know, we hold lobby days, we, you know, regularly interact with, you know, elected officials, so support our efforts and doing that, as well. So I hope that that will change.

 

Adam Kulbach  1:28:08

I have one last question for you. A lot of people might not be aware of the marijuana project policy. Or who there exists executive director is a man named Steve Hawkins. I assume you’re familiar with him?

 

Eric Grange  1:28:26

Yeah, I’ve never met him in person. But yeah, I’m familiar with Marijuana Policy Project, NPP. And some of their work and they’ve been a huge resource for us in terms of, with our limited resources, you know, we tap into, you know, what they put out in terms of information to help us, you know, stay abreast of what’s happening in different states. But, you know, we’d love to see them do even more, when it comes to social equity as well. So, yeah, they put out a lot of good information. And again, like I said, we’ve, you know, use them and continue to use them, to help us, you know, look at everything that’s going on in the space, even though we again, are typically folks focused on issues of diversity or social equity. You know, it’s important to understand the entire landscape of what’s going on and the industry in any, you know, particular state. And so, they certainly have been helpful in us understanding, you know, what the climate is in that state, what, you know, are the, you know, key topics that everybody’s talking about, and how do we, you know, work to advance what we, you know, some of our priorities as well.

 

Adam Kulbach  1:29:43

Thank you very much, and we hope to have you back.

 

Eric Grange  1:29:45

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I think it was awesome. And I enjoy talking about this subject. So anytime, you know, I’m invited onto a platform to talk about it. I appreciate and thank you guys for what you do as well.

 

Adam Kulbach  1:29:57

Great. Good luck with everything you’re doing. That’s all the time we have for now. Thanks for listening, and please stay tuned for some parting announcements. For information on how to follow the higher enlightenment podcasts. Please be sure to check out the description below. You’ll receive all the latest and greatest podcasts, news and announcements. We’ll also let you know when we release new episodes. If you’d like to be a guest on a higher enlightenment podcasts, or have ideas about upcoming episodes, please be sure to check out the description below. For information about sponsorship or advertising on the higher enlightenment podcast, please call us at 844 High yield. That’s 844 Hai why I ELD or visit our website at WWW dot higher yields consulting.com. Thanks, have a great day and we’ll talk to you soon