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Jerome Crawford Talks Social Equity, Criminalization and Barriers of Entry in the Cannabis Industry

Sixteen states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. New York and Virginia are among the newest states to pass this progressive legislation but the Black community is still dealing with the effects of marijuana criminalization where many still remain behind bars for minor infractions. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, the government needs to right its wrongs, and companies need to make sure the community that has been heavily impacted is able to enter the market.

Pleasantrees, a Michigan-based cannabis dispensary, is one of those companies that are putting in the work to grow the industry, responsibly. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Pleasantrees' Director of Legal Operations and Social Equity, Jerome Crawford, who is also the first Black in-house counsel of a Michigan cannabis manufacturer. Our Editor-in-Chief, Eric K. Thomas, spoke with Jerome about what social equity in the cannabis industry means, some of the biggest issues companies face and more.

Jerome says working in the cannabis industry is "risky."

It's risky to work in cannabis. What we do every day is federally illegal. I mean, there's just no way to cut it. Banks won't work with us sometimes. Certain service providers and audit companies won't work with us merely because what we do is not federally. So, there are so many complications... and cannabis is just harder than it should be.

The Black community is at a disadvantage from entering the cannabis industry because they were criminalized by the industry.

Now, as we know, historically, in this country, people with resources is predominantly not Black and brown communities, which, ironically, in cannabis, which is crazy contemporary, it's a crazy system. In the sense that part of the reason, not the only reason, as we well know, but one key part of the reason why certain communities is disadvantaged from entering this industry is that they were criminalized by the industry when it was illegal to do it.

In order to market cannabis, companies need to destigmatize who the consumer is.

I think the other challenge we have is what you call cannabis culture. So, we launched a podcast about two months ago called "Pleasant Talks". And we talk about cannabis community and culture. And one of the things that we all try to unpack is, what does your user look like? What does your consumer look like? A lot of people have in their mind of who they think that person is. It's probably somebody in the family or a friend or somebody they've seen on TV. And they think they know and it's super stereotypical. So, destigmatizing that is a huge part of breaking down the walls.

Check out the full interview below.


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