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The US Cannabis Council (USCC) has a mission to create a diverse and inclusive cannabis industry with equal opportunities for all entrepreneurs: lack of access.

“The goal or mission of the US Cannabis Council is to ensure that it is a diverse and inclusive industry that thrives for all, not just in terms of equity and license ownership, but also to ensure that the cannabis industry itself is diverse “Johnson told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Pharmacy.

To improve access to the industry for black entrepreneurs, the USCC is running a new internship program in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and is launching its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) task force, which will shortly introduce an instrument for Assessment of the success of the member companies in these areas.

“A strong path to future leadership”

The Spring 2022 Pathways to the C-Suite Internship Program will partner black college graduates and college graduates with eight of the USCC member cannabis companies and organizations, including ACHEM, Canopy, Columbia Care, Curaleaf, Holistic, Marijuana Policy Project, USCC, and Weedmaps.

The application deadline was December 3rd, and the internship officially starts in January.

“If you look at hiring people, a lot of people haven’t had the chance to really get into positions at some of these companies,” said Johnson. “What is that [internship program] dos removes the barriers to entry by being able to introduce [interns to] People who can [put them] on a strong path to future leadership. “

The CCCF already has “an amazing program,” he added, that the organization has run in partnership with companies outside the cannabis industry in the past.

“We’re only reflecting things that we know will work,” said Johnson.

CBCF will lead the recruitment process and select a group of finalists from the pool of applicants for the internship program, which is open to students from all fields of study. Once the CBCF has named the finalists, USCC will interview the candidates and select the nine interns who will serve in the eight participating organizations.

The interns gain practical experience in various departments such as government relations, corporate responsibility, marketing and finance. The program also includes visits to cannabis facilities to give interns an insight into the industry.

“The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has a professional development program,” said Johnson. “We’re also developing our own cannabis curriculum, which really covers everything from the history of cannabis to basic business principles and the like. Here, too, we want them to get close to the companies, but also to be informed about cannabis and to be prepared to become future leaders in the cannabis industry. “

Johnson said the spring 2022 internship program is the first of many USCC plans to run in partnership with the CCCF. As the program grows, he hopes more USCC member firms will participate.

“I’ve had conversations with other people in the industry who have been inspired to hire interns,” said Johnson. “Hopefully … we’ll make a big difference in the industry.”

As a graduate of a historically black college and university (HBCU), Johnson would like to work with HBCU institutions in the future.

“We want to continue reaching all areas just to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry at all levels,” he said.

Last week, Johnson spoke at Tuskegee University’s 79th Annual Meeting of Professional Agricultural Workers. The USCC also recently hosted a panel discussion and breakfast at the 45th Annual State Legislative Conference of the National Black Caucus of Legislators to discuss how lawmakers can use law to focus on social justice efforts that benefit the communities most vulnerable from the drug war are affected.

“It was something to really continue the work that we are doing, and to educate and build coalitions with other communities that have not traditionally been done in the cannabis field,” said Johnson.

A dedicated task force

While Linda Mercado Greene, Chair of the USCC’s DEI Task Force and owner and CEO of Washington, DC-based pharmacy Anacostia Organics, welcomes the USCC’s cannabis internship program, her primary focus is on advancing the goals of the originally formed DEI Task Force in 2019 under the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF). The USCC has now restarted the task force after the merger with CTF.

In addition to Greene, members of the task force are:

  • Ngiste Abebe, Vice President, Public Policy, Columbia Care
  • Peter Barsoom, CEO, Nuka Enterprises
  • Karen Boykin Towns, Vice Chari, NAACP
  • Vince Canales, President & CEO, CLG & Associates
  • Yolanda Kümmel, President & CEO, The Caraway Group
  • Rev. Delman Coates, Ph.D., Founder and President, New Abolitionism Campaign and the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality
  • Carlos Curbelo, former US Congressman
  • Dr. Patricia Frye, Founder and Medical Director, Takoma Park Alternative Care
  • Judge Shelli Hayes (retired), Co-Founder and CEO, Tetrasol
  • Wade Henderson, President, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Hirsch Jain, Director, Government Affairs, Caliva
  • Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP
  • Dakeana Jones, Vice President, Human Resources, LivWell Enlightened Health
  • Tony Lee, Managing Partner, Dickerson Insurance Services
  • Eugene Monroe, Diversity Consultant, Green Thumb Industries and former National Football League player
  • Marc Morial, CEO, National Urban League
  • Laura Murphy, Former Director of the ACLU Washington, DC Office and President, Laura Murphy & Associates
  • Kim Napoli, Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Vicente Sederberg LLP
  • Akele Parnell, Head of Equity Partnerships, Lantern
  • Caroline Phillips, Founder & Executive Producer, National Cannabis Festival
  • Mykel Selph, VP, Social Justice, Cresco Labs
  • Ashesh Shaw, director, Akerna
  • Tracy Syphax, CEO, From the block to the boardroom
  • Isiah Thomas, CEO, Isiah International, LLC
  • Khadijah Tribble, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Curaleaf
  • Nick Turner, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice
  • Herb Wilkins, Jr., Managing Director, SCI Ventures

The task force ranges from civil rights activists to athletes to medical professionals, Greene said.

“The main reason for the formation of the task force was equality and equal opportunities, especially for People of Color” [those] those hardest hit by the war on drugs to get into this industry and be successful in the industry, ”she said.

The task force is working to develop an overall strategy to diversify the cannabis industry and ensure that the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs can reap the benefits of legalization, especially if the federal ban is lifted.

The group is also charged with developing benchmarks and targets to measure the industry’s progress in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“[The task force members have] Everyone agreed to create an assessment tool and share their diversity numbers, diversity goals, diversity achievements and diversity errors in a detailed way so that we can help them and see where they can improve, ”said Greene .

The assessment tool will collect data on USCC member firms’ efforts towards diversity, equity and inclusion and provide a foundation for where the industry can improve in these areas, said Laura Murphy, former director of the ACLU Washington, DC office, president by Laura Murphy & Associates and a member of the USCC’s DEI Task Force.

“The recent legalization of marijuana for health and recreational purposes is creating a new industry, but the color communities have been left behind,” Murphy said. “I think the task force is so important and the assessment tool is so important because communities of color have borne disproportionately the terrible price of the war on drugs. Ways should also be created for this community to share in the prosperity generated by legalizing marijuana. I think we have come to an important point and the DEI task force is here to say, ‘Yes, we want this industry to flourish, but we also want this industry to be fair and inclusive.’ “

The assessment tool will be introduced in early 2022. Greene expects the task force will have enough data by mid-2022 to advise USCC member firms – and the industry at large – on best practices for hiring and retaining employees that focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion focus . The task force will eventually issue DEI scorecards to measure the performance of companies on the following criteria: recruitment / retention, procurement, governance, and philanthropy / community engagement.

Isiah Thomas, NBA Hall of Famer and CEO of Colombian cannabis operator One World Products, joined the task force to ensure everyone had an equal chance to experience the wellness side of cannabis. He said he wanted the group to eventually work to open international borders to the cannabis market.

“The immediate goals are … to enable us to work like most companies in the world, where you deal with banks and all rules are the same nationwide and nationwide,” said Thomas. “They want the rules to apply across the board so everyone has a level playing field.”

Thomas also hopes the task force can help expand cannabis education to advance the industry as a whole.

“I would say the task force, the work that it has done and is doing is invaluable in this area,” he said. “In five years, in ten years, people will look back and see how the industry has grown, and there will be a few [of] Areas to refer to that have impacted the industry and helped the industry grow, and the Task Force will be one of those places. “