With cannabis becoming legal for adult-use, celebration has died down and confusion has set in. New and long time cannabis users have now been left a bit in the dark as to what this all means for them as consumers, business owners or future business owners. The Legacy To Legal: Transitioning into a Regulated Cannabis Market, hosted by the Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo (CEASE) and the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) and powered by Weedmaps, was an event perfect for people looking to learn about what legalization in New York and New Jersey means going forward.
Presenters included notable figures from the cannabis industry including Shaleen Title, Former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission; Vladimir Bautista, co-founder of Happy Munkey; hashmaker and educator The Dank Duchess; and endocannabinologist Dr. Rachel Knox, MD / MBA, co-founder and president of CHEM.
"Events like Legacy To Legal reflect our long-standing commitment to thriving cannabis marketplaces across the United States and beyond. The impactful efforts that we initiate or support through our WM TEAL program equip entrepreneurs of color, minority business owners and those disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs with the tools and tactics to succeed in the legal cannabis business, says Bridget Hennessey, Vice President of Weedmaps. “But that's not all. These efforts also empower participants to play an active role in leading the industry and shaping its future."
Crystal Peoples-Stokes Speaks On Moving Forward
New York Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who keynoted the event, has been working to move toward cannabis legalization within the state for over nine years. Peoples-Stokes’s strong efforts to move towards legalization were backed by the people she represents. The minority population has been targeted within the War on Drugs and this was one of the biggest reasons it was necessary for her to voice the fight in New York.
Crystal Peoples-Stokes spoke about how the breathalyzer was developed in order to help determine the blood alcohol level that would impair someone’s driving and helped aid in detecting if someone was at or past the legal limit. This is similar to what is going on now with cannabis in New York. Government is trying to determine the amount of THC that would impair one’s driving and how to determine that during stops.
Peoples-Stokes is also an advocate for making all businesses have fair chances in setting up shop to ensure the market will not be run by big corporations, allowing small businesses to have a chance. The Majority Leader touched on the necessity of accessible consumption sites, specifically for people in government housing who have to abide by the no-smoking rule within their buildings.
To hear more of the Majority Leader speak on legalization in New York, watch the clip.
Understanding The War On Drugs
It is important to understand the history of the War on Drugs in order to correctly and appropriately move forward within the legal cannabis space.
“The criminalization of cannabis was a war on people used to systematically and systemically destroy Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other marginalized people’s access to well-being and prosperity,” says Dr. Rachel Knox. “Now, we must fight for restitution, reparation, and revitalization. We must secure our economy within this industry. Cannabis is the singular best investment tool in activating equitable access to prosperity. The criminalization of cannabis is the currency of oppression. The commercialization of cannabis can be the currency of vitality.”
Dasheeda Dawson, co-founder of CEASE and Cannabis Program Supervisor for the City of Portland, Oregon, discussed the “racially biased enforcement of cannabis prohibition disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous & Latinx communities.”
One of the biggest impacts the War on Drugs has had is the continuation of the prison pipeline for people of color, who are four times as likely as their white counterparts to be criminally convicted on drug charges. By disproportionately targeting these communities, the War on Drugs helped sustain the prison pipeline. This not only increased the number of inmates from communities of color, it also came with racially biased sentencing and no way to rebuild one’s life after incarceration.
The War on Drugs further impacted these communities and with cannabis becoming legal, there are inmates still serving time for a crime that no longer exists. The history of disparity has also affected the medical usage community, with patients of color becoming fearful of using cannabis as medicine due to the difficulties. Even though the plant is now legal, there are still many limits to possession. In New Jersey you can only be in possession of 6 ounces or fewer of flower; in New York, the maximum is only 3.
Cannabis Equity Health Movement With Dr. Rachel
To learn about the Cannabis Equity Health Movement from Dr. Rachel click here.
Importance of Gaining Your Medical Card
Now that adult-use consumption is legal, people are not putting the time in to get their medical cards, a still-relevant process which must not be overlooked. It is extremely important that patients gain their medical card in order to have access to the medicine they need.
It is also imperative that doctors work to make medical cards more accessible. Some patients do not have the ability to pay for doctor bills and visits alone, and to add an expensive medical card visit on top of that can price cannabis treatment far out of their reach. There is a systemic problem within the medical cannabis world, making it even harder for patients who need this medicine the most to afford it at dispensaries. Additionally, dispensaries are few and far between in some areas, creating new barriers for people who cannot afford transportation.
Exploring Marketing and Product Development
The program also explored the business side of cannabis legalization. With both New York and New Jersey legalizing and operating so closely, the East Coast has gained a lot of land in the cannabis world, opening up the opportunities for new businesses and brands to begin growing and manufacturing products.
When these brands and businesses go through the work to set up shop, many will find a slight downfall in sales because it is extremely hard to market to customers. Packaging is a massive aspect in setting your business apart from the rest. Colorful packaging that is also accessible and easy to understand can help catch the eye of the consumer and empower new users to find the right dosage for them or what the different strains might mean.
Advertising through magazines or other mediums is the best way for cannabis companies to get the word out about their products. Popular platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok tend to censor and delete content about certain regulated items, cannabis included. Using other avenues such as magazines will allow companies to reach a wider audience without the same issues of censorship.
The CEASE and CHEM teams have confirmed that Legacy to Legal is the inaugural event of a series which will include further deep dives into such topics as getting a medical card, post-legalization civic engagement and advocacy, and license preparation for cannabis businesses.
If you are excited about the legalization in New York and New Jersey and are thinking about opening a business, let us know about it in the comments below!
To learn more about CEASE and CHEM, visit ceaseconference.org and thefutureischem.com.