An Oakland, California native and founder of the social impact enterprise Medisi Ventures, TiYanna Long is focused on the sustainable development of the cannabis industry. She takes a unique approach centered around public policy and city planning, while simultaneously recognizing that cannabis is an emerging legal market with little to no federal support, amid an unstable political environment. TiYanna’s professional and academic background, as well as her passion for community development, has enabled her to discover a niche that is vital to helping cannabis avoid the trap that has befallen nearly every major industry in existence to date—being disadvantageous to the nation’s most vulnerable communities, specifically communities of color.
We all see the profit reports as more and more people publicly join the push for cannabis legalization. But for whom, and how long, will the results of legalization be beneficial? The aim is “forever.” However, as the cannabis community advocates for recreational legalization, it is failing to address a big problem—negative circumstances that are bound to exist and contribute to further destruction in marginalized communities.The census predicts that people of color will comprise the majority of the United States’ population by 2042, and the cannabis industry, like all others, must be adaptable and create equitable and inclusive opportunities.How many people will require record expunction (or the legal “erasing” of a criminal conviction) as a result of legalization? How are city planning offices preparing for housing and job needs related to population fluctuations? These are just two examples of sociological questions that need to be addressed now. As we move toward recreational acceptance and integration of cannabis into the nation’s economic framework, we increasingly realize the data and human resource needs will be immense. Unfortunately, industry emergence is happening faster than governments at the local and state levels are able to keep up. It has become the industry’s responsibility to ensure its own success. In order to do so properly, we need to raise awareness and provide solutions to issues that lie below the surface of what you see in the pro-cannabis circuit.Though cannabis is an uncomfortable topic for some, I hope to make opportunities more transparent and information more digestible, encouraging more people to ask questions, engage, and enlighten one another in the process. We are all always learning! None of this will happen overnight, but through Impact investing, consulting, and the ongoing documentary series Consumption Chronicles, I am bringing together the necessary sectors to help the cannabis industry have a long, equitable, and positive impact on the world.–**A version of this article appeared in print in Honeysuckle Magazine’s HERS issue, summer 2017 edition. –Follow TiYanna and Medisi Ventures at @tiyannalong and @medisillc.