“Cannaware Society’s most important responsibility is to fight against the harms created by cannabis prohibition and address the generational consequences facing communities of color,” says Grizzly Bocourt, Cannaware Society Founder and Executive Director.
In today’s society, the cannabis industry is booming with new business opportunities as more organizations push for legalization and companies set up shop. As the industry is on the rise in the U.S., we must create space for communities that built up this industry in the first place.
What Is The Cannaware Society?
Cannaware Society is a New-York based organization that ensures that underserved communities have equal access to the cannabis plant and industry. Since 2017, Grizzly Bocourt has formed a team that focuses on education and advocacy to bridge the gap between New York’s cannabis community and the ever-growing legal industry.
Cannaware fosters underserved communities for economic and social development while providing access to education for entrepreneurs, patients, specialists, advocates, and cannabis enthusiasts. This organization has continued to uplift these communities through events like their Take Action workshops.
On Sunday, August 7th Cannaware hosted a Take Action workshop in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy), Brooklyn at the cozy Bailey’s Cafe. From legal professionals to business experts, local cannabis advocates showed up to help connect the community to the cannabis industry. Cannabis, IP & Healthcare Attorney Andrew Cooper, of the event partner firm Falcon, Rappaport & Berkman PLLC, was just one of the many people who came to support the event’s programming, dedicated to an overview of expungement and reentry policy.
“There is nothing more important than ensuring that the people who are the intended beneficiaries of the social equity provisions of the MRTA [Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act] and potentially eligible CAURD [Conditional Adult Use Retail Dispensary] licensees have access to the information they need to participate,” said Cooper. He was referring to the retail category of licenses opening first in New York, which apply solely to people who have federal cannabis charges on their records. “Without that access, the program is doomed to fail in that mission.”
This workshop gave participants access to criminal justice assistance, cannabis business assistance, canna-career resources, and wrap-around resources.
Cannaware hosted this supportive workshop in collaboration with Bailey’s Cafe, Emerge Law Group, Falcon Rappaport & Berkman PLLC, Vasquez Segarra LLP, THC Staffing, C.E.A.S.E., The JUSTÜS Foundation, SSDP, Curved Papers, Presto Doctor, Kreaky Products, and Rebel Minded Media.
Reporter, Kally Compton had the pleasure of speaking with Grizzly and other Cannaware advocates about their impact on education and advocacy for communities like Bed-Stuy.
Grizzly Bocourt, Cannaware Society Founder and Executive Director chats about Cannaware
“I got involved in the cannabis industry by mistake,” Grizzly says.
Grizzly Bocourt originally got started in the creative industry by empowering independent creators to use their passions and make a career for themselves. With a similar mission of advocacy as Cannaware, Bocourt was focused on independent film, fashion, art, music, etc. at the time.
Bocourt was invited to a cannabis event by one of the musicians he worked with out of curiosity he attended and found a lack of inclusiveness.
“What I was disappointed to find was a lack of representation of color,” he mentions, “being that this industry was built on the backs of Black and brown communities.”
Through pre-legalization and post-legalization, we have seen a lack of representation of BIPOCs within the cannabis space. “Black people representing approximately 13% of the population, they accounted for only 1.2% to 1.7% of business owners in the industry, per Leafly’s Jobs Report 2021,” mentioned a recent article in Fortune. Bocourt wanted to find ways to open up the space to more Black and brown communities.
The Cannaware Society: Education and Advocacy through Entertainment
Between 2015 and 2016, Bocourt was producing content and hosting events which led him to transition into documenting the cannabis experience. Bocourt and his team built content around the cannabis community in New York, including events led by the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit focused on maximizing educational and business opportunities for people of color in the industry.
After generating positive conversation around education and advocacy within the cannabis space, Cannaware pivoted into hosting its own cannabis-focused events. The first of many event series was Cannatalk, a panel discussion series that featured entertainers and educators.
“One of the things we learned was that people receive information easier when they are comfortable and entertained,” Bocourt says.
With the combination of education and entertainment being the catalyst for a connective conversation Cannaware went on to develop more innovative series such as their Cannamarket.
“We created the Cannamarket series to help bridge the gap and connect consumers with businesses,” he mentions. “We provided a place where they can engage with these cannabis businesses in a faith-friendly open space.”
Cannaware And The Movement of Medicinal Marijuana
Alongside Bocourt’s passion for providing access to the cannabis industry on the business side, he also has a strong passion for the medicinal side of the cannabis industry.
“My grandmother was a two-time survivor of breast cancer,” he mentions. “So when I got involved in the cannabis space, I identified with the medical components of it.”
This led to a Breast Cancer Awareness series that focuses on the education of the different benefits cannabis can provide. Bocourt mentioned that the Cannaware team is currently working on their sixth annual event within this series that will help educate people on the benefits medicinal cannabis can have on people struggling with various ailments.
Between 2020 and 2021 Cannaware did not stop to provide awareness and education to various communities.
“During the pandemic, we were trying to keep the community engaged,” he says. “So we had our ‘Social Gathering From a Distance’ series.”
This virtual Zoom series created opportunities for brand organizers and cannabis advocates to host each event based on different themes such as arts and crafts. These events kept the community together and empowered through such a difficult time as the pandemic.
“We’ve been advocating for cannabis legalization,” he notes. “We were one of the organizations that helped get the bill passed in New York.”
Cannaware was a part of the Start SMART NY coalition that helped push legalization further.
“We’re continuing the fight we started with legalization,” he says. “With post-legalization, we’re making sure that the bill that we fought for is implemented in a way needed for the community to thrive.”
Cannaware Takes Action
At the beginning of 2022, Cannaware started its Take Action Workshop series.
“The mission of this is continuing to go beyond education and providing resources,” Bocourt says. “We came up with the name ‘Take Action’ as a means to help people take action.”
Through the Take Action workshop, Cannaware offers criminal justice, cannabis employment, and small business assistance and resources to help community members and entrepreneurs integrate themselves into the cannabis industry.
As advocate groups like Cannaware continue to go into underserved communities and provide a safe space to learn and grow within the cannabis space. Attendees of events like the Take Action workshops can walk away feeling seen, heard, and set on a path for success within the cannabis industry.
Everyone has a right to reap the benefits of this ever-growing industry, and every community deserves to thrive.