On Friday April 30 2021, the Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo (CEASE) and the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) hosted a groundbreaking virtual conference to help New York and New Jersey legacy operators transition to the regulated market. Sponsored by Weedmaps®, this 5-hour virtual interactive event, “Legacy to Legal: Transitioning into a Regulated Cannabis Market” provided more than 300 participants with cannabis education, a candid exchange of information and ideas between legacy leaders and organizers on the frontlines of cannabis advocacy, and strategies for integrating legacy operators into the New York and New Jersey markets through entrepreneurship and employment.
“Legacy to Legal”
As we move forward with cannabis policy reform and the cannabis industry grows and is opened up to more and more entrepreneurs and investors, it is absolutely essential that legacy operators are both a part of the conversation and implementation, and that they are fully supported in bridging into the legalized industry. This event was full of active participation and support offered in every sector for those looking to work in the newly legalized industry in both NY and NJ. The event was incredible and curated so intentionally that it had me scrambling for which session was best to attend, and I am not even an East Coastie!
Dasheeda and Ice Dawson hosted the event with an incredible lineup of speakers.
The Racist Criminalization of Cannabis
“The criminalization of cannabis was a war on people used to systematically and systemically destroy Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other marginalized people’s access to well-being and prosperity. Now, we must fight for restitution, reparation, and revitalization. We must secure our economy within this industry, “ says Dr. Rachel Knox, MD MBA, Endocannabinologist and Co-Founder and President, CHEM, who presented at the event. “Cannabis is the singular best investment tool in activating equitable access to prosperity. The criminalization of cannabis is the currency of oppression. The commercialization of cannabis can be the currency of vitality.”
“Events like Legacy To Legal reflect our long-standing commitment to thriving cannabis marketplaces across the United States and beyond. The impactful efforts that we initiate or support through our WM TEAL program equip entrepreneurs of color, minority business owners and those disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs with the tools and tactics to succeed in the legal cannabis business, says Bridget Henessy, Weedmaps Vice President. “But that’s not all. These efforts also empower participants to play an active role in leading the industry and shaping its future.”
New York Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the hero of the New York Adult-Use Cannabis legislation that was recently passed, was the event’s keynote speaker. “The fight has just begun,” she said. While New York’s legalization was definitely a combined effort of many activists, businesses, coalitions, and organizations, the legislation was ultimately championed by Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who sponsored the bill. She credited her co-sponsor, Senator Liz Krueger, Drug Policy Alliance and their campaign Start Smart NY, amongst others, for this victory.
“Legacy to Legal” featured workshops focused on smooth and swift entry into the cannabis industry through civic engagement and advocacy; cultivation and manufacturing; events and consumption spaces; distribution, retail, and delivery; marketing and new product development.
Presenters helping to put the community on the path of the projected multibillion dollar legal markets in New York and New Jersey also included Vlad Bautista, Co-Founder Happy Munkey LLC and The Dank Duchess®.
Vlad encouraged legacy operators. He said, “You already have legacy and experience from the culture, and when you learn the rest you have more to offer than anyone. Legacy operators have knowledge that is very valuable in the legalized industry. We have one of the best bills in the country, and we have seen time and time again that legislation gets undone by more legislation. Continuing to be involved is so important.”
The Dank Duchess agreed, and made a point specifically about her hopes for the equity program in NY. She said, “To benefit from the social equity program, people must be ready for the whole situation. Licenses should come packaged with education about compliance, marketing, taxes, METRC, packaging, processing, the laws, everything. If not, you set people up to fail. Legacy operators need the law to acknowledge that they have done wrong by you, and now they need to do FULLY to right by you.”
CEASE and CHEM are using the power of their combined platforms to transform Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities devastated by prohibition, systemic racism, and the overcriminalization of the plant. “Legacy to Legal” is a powerful collaboration integrating the pioneers responsible for popularizing cannabis into the legal industry in holistic ways benefit patients, consumers, entrepreneurs, and the market as a whole.
This inaugural event was the first of many planned Legacy To Legal community education events, which include deep dives into areas covered during the inaugural event such as “Getting A Medical Card”, “Post-legalization Civic Engagement & Advocacy” and “Seed-to-Sale License Preparation”.
I look forward to seeing what the event series pulls together next, and also hope to see other groups follow suit with this type of messaging and support.
Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium and Expo (CEASE)
Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium and Expo (CEASE) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to promote inclusion, equity, and justice in the cannabis community by increasing awareness and educating consumers, particularly those marginalized by prohibition, about the medical and economic benefits of the plant. Globally, the organization looks to cease misconceptions and to enhance consumer understanding by providing a strong platform for informed cannabis industry thought leadership, innovative brand exhibition, and education on the evolution of the cannabis plant across health/wellness, policy advocacy, and business.
The Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM)
The Cannabis Health Equity Movement™ (CHEM) is a call to action-it’s a call to educate, advocate, and demonstrate that cannabis is a root-solution to healing people and the earth.
Our mission is to actualize health equity for all people beginning with the revitalization of the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx (BIL) communities harmed most by the war on drugs. Through applying regenerative design to the industrial ecology of cannabis, CHEM aims to leverage the agricultural, industrial, medical, and nutritional innovations of cannabis to revivify BIL communities into sustainable and resilient ecosystems that are productive of health, wealth, and prosperity.
The aim is 2-fold: to cultivate BIL cannabis industry and ancillary workforce, entrepreneurship, and leadership success, and to promote stewardship of community planning and economic development through education, workforce development, small business support, reciprocal partnerships, and the design and implementation of community revitalization initiatives.