October 20, 2022

Cannabis Trailblazer Dasheeda Dawson is now New York City’s Cannabis Czar

October 20, 2022
Cannabis NYC

Thought leader and activist Dasheeda Dawson continues to soar in her career as a leading cannabis policy maker and activist with her latest move. Dawson has stepped down from her position as the Cannabis Program Manager at the City of Portland is now the Founding Director of the new Cannabis NYC initiative where she will lead the agency’s support of the burgeoning cannabis industry of New York City.

While Dawson is undoubtedly a dynamic industry trailblazer, she is an authentic medical marijuana patient and advocate first, and I can think of no one better to lead and support the newly legalized cannabis Industry in the world’s projected largest market. She recently told me that in her work in Portland was at a point where they were riding a bike that had just had the training wheels taken off, and now switching into NYC was like jumping on a motorcycle…good thing she has the knowledge, experience, and ethics to take this market on!

Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition Chair Dasheeda Dawson Appointed Founding Director of Cannabis NYC

Recognized as a cannabis juggernaut before legalization, New York City’s emerging regulated adult-use industry is poised to be historic. Dasheeda Dawson is a respected industry pioneer with regulating experience and a demonstrated commitment to centering equity and inclusion in the space. Recently, NYC Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim announced Dawson’s appointment to her new position.

The SBS launched Cannabis NYC to support the development of a thriving and equitable cannabis industry with first-of-its-kind support for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs. Through strategic outreach, public engagement, business services, and advocacy efforts, Cannabis NYC will support the creation of good jobs, successful small businesses, and sustainable economic opportunity to address historic harms of cannabis prohibition. Dawson will helm SBS’s strategy to support New York’s emerging cannabis market through public education, direct services to cannabis entrepreneurs and professionals, legislative advocacy, and policy development at all levels of government.

Dasheeda Dawson, Cannabis NYC Founding Director

She’ll serve as the primary liaison between SBS, other city agencies, the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (NYSOCM), as well as community stakeholders, including elected officials, community boards, and industry associations. She will also work to establish and collaborate with the New York City Cannabis Advisory Council, an advisory board of industry and community stakeholders that aims to ensure innovation and equity are central to the success of this emerging industry.

“As a Brooklyn, New York native, I witnessed the many harms of cannabis prohibition – the unequal enforcement that shattered the lives of so many of my peers, the awful impact of revolving residents shuttering in and out of the criminal justice, the void left by the unfulfilled promise and traps into poverty and marginalization. Now, I have an opportunity to support our state’s nascent industry so that it can be a force for positive change. I am honored by the chance to lead cannabis efforts in the Big Apple and look forward to working with Mayor Adams, SBS, the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (NYSOCM), as well as community stakeholders to ensure that every New Yorker can benefit from the growing industry, particularly those most harmed by prohibition, which targeted Blacks and other people of color.” 

–Dasheeda Dawson, CRCC Chair and Cannabis NYC Founding Director

“Dasheeda is a regulator with a thoughtful and inclusive approach that seeks to restore communities and individuals harmed by cannabis prohibition. She works hard to ensure that everyone benefits from the fast-growing industry, not simply those with money and power,” says Shaleen Title, CRCC Co-Founder and former Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner. “I’m confident that she will bring the same spirit of fairness and cooperation to what will likely be the biggest cannabis market in the world. New York City is lucky to have a leader with her vision and determination.”

Dasheeda Dawson is a global cannabis advocate, award-winning Fortune 100 business strategist, and bestselling author on the cannabis industry. Her advocacy and thought leadership have also been featured across multiple outlets.

She has nearly 20 years of business development, strategic management, and brand marketing excellence while leading transformative organizations in both the public and private sectors, nearly a decade of which has focused on the growing cannabis industry.

As an advocate and policy advisor, Dawson was pivotal to the 2021 landmark passage of New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. While fighting for legalization in her home state, Dawson was tapped to lead cannabis regulation in Portland, Oregon. As cannabis program manager for the City of Portland, Dawson oversaw all regulatory licensing, compliance, education, and equity initiatives for the city’s cannabis industry. Supported by ongoing cannabis tax revenue allocation, her office managed the Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives, which includes the nationally-modeled SEED Grant Fund, the country’s first community reinvestment fund tied to local cannabis tax revenue. Under her leadership, Portland approved a multimillion-dollar Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund, becoming the first government jurisdiction in the country to allocate cannabis tax revenue to provide aid and emergency relief to the industry.

Dawson serves as Board chair of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, a national organization of industry policymakers and regulators often referred to as the leading architects of cannabis equity and reform in the United States. She is also a weekly correspondent on the Lurie Daniel Favors show and co-host on “She Blaze,” an award-winning weekly cannabis news and culture podcast. 

Dawson received her MBA from Rutgers Business School and completed her undergraduate degree in molecular biology at Princeton University.

The New York Times profile on her vision for the role can be accessed here.

An image from the 2022 Cannabis Empowerment Day–Portland’s first cannabis community event.

Portland’s Cannabis Program Announces Leadership Change  

While Dawson has already had her last day with the City of Portland, she plans to remain as a volunteer to support Portland’s Cannabis Policy Oversight Team.

“I have loved working with this amazing team and community committed to growing Portland’s cannabis market and repairing the damage of cannabis prohibition. The program is under the Office of Community & Civic Life because it houses important community issues including cannabis reform, immigration, livability and disability justice. The bureau’s framework in working with the community to resolve systemic issues is only inspiring other larger markets to follow Portland’s lead.” 

-Dasheeda Dawson, former Cannabis Program Manager for the City of Portland

Despite the market’s repetitive theft, increased overhead, and inflation challenges, Portland may have the country’s most innovative, equity-centered, and resilient cannabis ecosystem due to the creative problem-solving and programming created by the community, businesses and the City’s program.

The program’s recent accomplishments include: 

Becoming the first U.S. government entity to support cannabis industry pandemic recovery through the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund.  

-Being the first U.S. government entity to fund community investment with cannabis tax revenue through the Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives.  

-Hosting the first Cannabis Empowerment Day, also Portland’s first government-led cannabis community event.  

-Facilitating the Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT) to advise the City in building Portland’s cannabis ecosystem. 

This month Portland opened its sixth cycle of the SEED Initiatives Grant. SEED supports organizations working to repair the lasting legal, social, economic, and inter-generational consequences of cannabis prohibition on BIPOC communities.  

SEED Initiatives became the national standard for other government-led community reinvestment programs funded by cannabis tax revenue, including the Los Angeles California’s SEED Grant and Rockford Illinois’ REGROW Grant Fund.

Portland is the first government jurisdiction in the country to allocate cannabis tax revenue to help cannabis businesses and workers as they continue to endure the impacts of robberies, COVID-19, and wildfires.

“Portland’s track record will continue,” said Commissioner-in-charge Jo Ann Hardesty. “And, this is why it is my pleasure to announce that Christina Coursey will serve as the Interim Cannabis Program Manager.”

Coursey has been with City’s Cannabis Program since 2015. Currently, the Cannabis Program’s Licensing, Compliance & Policy Supervisor, she is the architect and lead administrator of the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). 

“I am proud of the historic work Portland’s Cannabis Program has accomplished. I am thankful for Dasheeda’s strong voice and leadership and am excited for this opportunity to continue the important work she started,” said Coursey. “Portland has the transformative framework, and I’m looking forward to further advancements as I continue collaborating with Interim Director Michael Montoya and Dasheeda in a new capacity.” 

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