As the cannabis industry grapples with how to address social equity and representation, premium brand and Michigan-based operator Gage Growth Corp. is taking the lead to support BIPOC innovators through its distinctive grant program. Gage recently announced its third social equity grant will go to Margeaux Bruner, founder of the accoutrements company Holi Smokables, for her sustainable hemp cone product The Holi Flower.
“Michigan is a state that has been deeply impacted by the tragic effects of the War on Drugs,” said Bruner. “Social equity initiatives like Gage’s generous grant program provide Black-owned businesses with a more level playing field to compete with deep-pocketed operators in their community. We are grateful to receive this grant from Gage in order to bring unparalleled and innovative quality hemp products to market.”
Bruner has built a strong reputation in the industry for her dedication to shaping policy. Prior to founding Holi Smokables, which she launched in December 2020, she was selected by Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel to serve on the state’s Marijuana Legal Workshop, which worked to ensure the fair and appropriate implementation of statewide cannabis proposals and regulations. As Commissioner of the Impaired Driving Safety Commission, Bruner represented qualified and registered patients. She also acted as a Designated Speaker and Strategist on behalf of the Marijuana Policy Project during the 2018 Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign. It’s clear that, in merging her passions for regulation and business strategy, planetary wellness and health, Bruner will continue to elevate the cannabis sector for consumer enjoyment and effect lasting social change.
Community Coordinator Sydney Bowden says Gage is thrilled to name Bruner as a social equity grant recipient: “In addition to her company being an asset to the retail sector, Bruner has been a tireless advocate for social equity in cannabis and in Michigan. We look forward to watching her grow this new venture and supporting other businesses like hers through our grant efforts.”
The announcement comes at a perfect time to shed light on the increasing need for reform in Michigan’s justice system, and the opportunities that entrepreneurs of color have amid the state’s shifting cannabis policies. On Gage’s website, it states that the grant program’s mission is “to strengthen the entire cannabis industry by contributing to the advancement of individuals [and] groups who have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition policies. Our goal is to minimize the barriers to entry by offering financial and marketing support as well as resources through our community partners.”
In total, the program consists of 20 grants up to $50,000 each, as well as public relations and marketing support. Additionally, Gage pledges to support record expungement clinics and informational sessions, and will collaborate with key community organizations to provide access to cannabis educational workshops, work development programs, and employment fairs. The first social equity grant was awarded in 2019 to Ryan Basore, president of Redemption Cannabis (which donates a portion of all proceeds to help those currently or formerly incarcerated), while the second grant in 2020 went to Diop Shumake, founder of Runner’s High 5K (an event raising over $10,000 for cannabis research and funding allocated to Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
Gage CEO Fabian Monaco comments, “Our social equity program is committed to not only making Michigan’s cannabis industry more accessible to entrepreneurs, but also amplifying the exceptional talents that make up our business community. Margeaux is a tremendous business leader, and we are confident in her ability to leverage this grant to build Holi Smokables into an impactful brand.”
As the first female recipient of a Gage social equity grant, as well as the first entrepreneur to win the honor for a sustainable hemp initiative, Bruner has set the bar for future applicants quite high indeed. She will be speaking at the National Cannabis Festival in Washington, D.C. on August 28 and at the NECANN conference in Boston on September 12.
Interested candidates for the next Gage social equity grant – applicants must be at least 21 years old and Michigan residents – should visit the company site for more information. To apply, you may submit basic business information, a business plan and other applicable details.
What innovations will the next cannabis visionaries bring to Michigan for a more inclusive and healthy society? The possibilities are endless.
Featured image: Margeaux Bruner courtesy of CannaCon