Inside 6 Independent Social Equity Stories in Illinois
When the State of Illinois announced its list of potential winners for the upcoming social equity dispensary licenses, the community and media were quick to determine that the program had fallen short of its intentions to create truly equitable opportunities for those disadvantaged by the war on drugs.
However, up until this point, we had not heard from those who were considered true social equity applicants, who did end up being able to participate in the lottery.
They’ve held off speaking up for months out of respect for the community’s grievances regarding the licensing process. Still, in an exclusive episode of the Cannabis Community Insider, we meet some potential winners and hear their exclusive stories first hand.
Thank you for sharing your stories …
Kiana Hughes, So Baked LLC
Ro Davis, Green Equity Ventures 1 Team
Sean Mason, Suite Greens Team
Donte Townsend, Make Peace Team
Table of Contents
- The video is an episode of “Cannabis Community Insider.”
- The host is Abraham Villegas, and he introduces the episode and himself.
- The episode features interviews with six social equity applicants in the state of Illinois who applied for a license and were selected to participate in the lottery.
- The interviews will provide an opportunity to listen and learn more about the applicants, their backgrounds, and their plans for 2021.
The Social Equity Six in the Mix (0:11)
- The episode will feature six exclusive groups of social equity applicants in the state of Illinois who applied for a license and were selected to participate in the lottery.
- There are five applicants present during the interview.
- The applicants will introduce themselves, their company, and their company philosophy.
Edie Moore (01:01)
- Edie Moore is the executive director of Chicago Normal and applied with her husband, Craig Moore, as a social equity applicant.
- They assembled a team and applied for a dispensary and row transportation infusion license for Terra House.
- They were successful in the medical round and won two licenses to grow and dispense but could not hold on to them due to being low equity holders.
- They are running their company together and are determined to be successful this time.
Kiana Hughes (02:02)
- Kiana Hughes is representing the group So Baked LLC.
- The company is 51% owned by Brittany and Tyrone Branch, both veterans living in DIAs.
- The company’s vision is to be a place for everybody, including the LGBTQIA+ community and black individuals, and to provide opportunities for youth to receive training and be part of the industry.
Donte Townsend (03:01)
- Donte Townsend represents Make Peace LLC, a 51% minority veteran-owned company.
- Townsend is a social equity applicant from a disproportionately impacted area.
- The team consists of organic individuals who have always been in the cannabis space and came together to compete in the market.
- Their motto is to be loving and organic while also being competitive and skillful at what they do.
True Social Equity 13:50
- The term “true social equity” or “equity applicants” is becoming popular in the cannabis industry.
- However, not everyone has the same definition for what it means.
- Edie, one of the guests, believes that true social equity means not being backed by any multi-state operators (MSOs).
- The group has discussed this topic and believes that being backed by MSOs is not true social equity.
Green Equity Ventures One 08:46
- Row Davis is the social equity applicant for Green Equity Ventures One.
- The company’s mission is to create a funding source that empowers their vision to redevelop its community, disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
- They are working primarily along 79th street to create the “Magnificent Mile,” a stretch of thriving black businesses.
- Green Equity Ventures One wants to use the cannabis plant to rebuild their community and create more equity in the space.
- The company is deeply rooted in community development and is already giving back to their community.
Sweet Greens 11:22
- Sean Mason represents Sweet Greens, an MVO with Walter Killingsworth as the 51% minority owner.
- Sweet Greens is a community-driven company that wants to give back and help as many people as possible.
- The company’s philosophy is to find ways to get better each and every day.
- Sean Mason is a developer and rehabber who owns over 40 units on the south side of Chicago.
- Sean’s other business is called “Building Better Communities.”
Terra House 12:15
- Craig from Terra House explains that their project’s idea was to improve their performance the last time and help bring some of this home.
- The project is not just about growing plants but also about building businesses and expanding them.
- Terra House wants to bring its project to an area that would benefit from it and appreciate it.
Veterans in the Cannabis Industry 10:58
- One of the guests, Row Davis, is a veteran who believes that veterans ought to have a role to play in these applications or the veteran status, albeit in a way that’s fair for everybody.
- Craig also believes veterans should have a role in the cannabis industry because of the price they paid for the country’s freedom.
Putting Yourself Out There 07:27
- The guests recognize the long haul and sacrifice needed to be successful in the cannabis industry.
- They put themselves and their families out there, taking valuable family time to do the community’s work.
- The group acknowledges the hard work that goes into the industry and wants to give back to their communities.
Ownership and Management 14:41
- The six guests plan to be owners and operators of their organizations.
- They emphasize that there is no management agreement; they create the business themselves.
Unapologetically Black and Indigenous 15:13
- The six guests are unapologetically black and indigenous to the community.
- They believe they all represent the legitimate aspirations of their community.
- They want to play a role in the cannabis industry and generate intergenerational wealth.
- The guests got their funding organically by contacting people who look like them first.
- They did not reach out to others for funding.
- They believe discussing where they got their money as social equity applicants is vital.
Social Equity 17:30
- Social equity aims to benefit individuals and communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs.
- Some of the guests have been to jail or have been arrested due to the war on drugs.
- Their family members are still in prison while their counterparts are raising capital in the cannabis industry.
- The guests believe that social equity is not limited to or defined by race or ethnicity.
- It is not a women’s rights issue either.
Narrow Definition of Social Equity 18:54
- The guests believe that the scope of what is social equity as defined in the law is narrow.
- The issues and impact of the war on drugs are not always documentable.
- They have a lot of experience with the war on drugs and believe that social equity is intersectional.
- They do not believe that social equity is a veteran issue.
Social Equity 21:15
- The concept of social equity is important to the speaker because it represents how most people view poor black individuals, who are often targeted for cannabis convictions or crimes.
- The speaker is a 32-year-old black man from Chicago, representing a demographic of young black men affected by cannabis-related crimes.
- The speaker’s parents have been victims of the war on drugs, and he grew up in the Robert Taylor projects in Chicago.
- The speaker believes that social equity is about providing a way for people to have an avenue to expand their dreams and create generational wealth through cannabis entrepreneurship.
Personal experiences 21:33
- The speaker shares his experiences growing up in Chicago and being a product of the cannabis culture and crime in the area.
- He mentions that he has had parents who have been victims of the war on drugs and has experienced the Robert Taylor projects in Chicago.
- The speaker believes that his personal experiences make him a social equity applicant.
Impact on families 24:25
- One speaker mentions that he was not a social equity applicant, but the war has impacted his family on drugs.
- The speaker has had family members who were incarcerated because of drug convictions, which has changed the demographic of his community.
Growing up in impacted communities 25:18
- The speaker grew up on the southeast side of Chicago, disproportionately impacted by drugs.
- He mentions that his entire life has been in the south side of Chicago, and he has a diversity of friends who are drug dealers or students.
- The speaker believes he is a part of the culture and has sold drugs.
Legal issues 27:34
- The speaker asks whether the law could have been written in a way that gave all licenses or a certain amount of licenses to black and brown people.
- The speaker mentions that white individuals also got arrested for drug-related crimes, but they were not treated and beaten up like black individuals.
- The speakers discuss the intention to have social equity in the cannabis industry.
Social Equity and Licensing 28:31
- The discussion is about social equity in the cannabis industry.
- A disparity study is designed to measure how much cheating has been occurring in the industry regarding licensing.
- The study is intended to give some preference to people affected by the industry in a specific way or people who live in an area that the industry has disproportionately impacted.
- Some have complained that the preference given to people who broke some money and hired people dilutes the equity effort.
- The discussion concerns the fairness and constitutionality of giving preference to people of color.
- The lottery system is not fair to people already qualified in social equity.
Personal Stories and Reasons for Joining the Cannabis Industry 32:48
- Abraham wants to learn from one enthusiast to another what brought their love for cannabis and why they are investing so much time and effort into the industry.
- One of the speakers joined the industry as a caregiver to his mother who benefited from cannabis.
- The speaker wanted to make sure that access to cannabis was available to everyone, which turned into a desire to help people learn how to get access and how it could help them.
- Another speaker joined the industry after a failed business venture and learned a lot from the experience.
- The speaker also saw how cannabis helped his mother and wanted to ensure that everyone knew how to access it and how it could help them.
- Donte credited for bringing one of the guests, Edie, into the organization.
- The group has been working together for six years.
Motivations for being in the cannabis industry 36:15
- There is a lot of opportunity in the industry beyond just the plant.
- Overcoming the stigma is necessary to realize the potential of the industry fully.
- The negative consequences tied to cannabis have kept some people away from it.
- The industry has the potential to be a cool thing.
- The industry is an opportunity to leave wills and not bills to future generations.
- The industry can be empowering and provide a path forward for communities of color.
Motivations continued 37:41
- Being at the right place at the right time has a lot of value in business.
- The speaker has committed their life’s work to empowering people economically and politically.
- The speaker started the business center to help people put their ideas into vacant storefronts.
- The industry allows the speaker to leave wills and not bills to their children.
- The speaker wants to play a significant role in bringing more people of color into the industry.
- The speaker sees the ability to have a license as a way to chart a clear path forward for the community.
Motivations continued 39:02
- The speaker loves smoking weed because it helps them with many different things.
- The speaker wanted to be able to grow and touch the plant, but then started learning about the industry.
- The speaker sees the opportunity for business development in the industry.
- There is a learning curve for entrepreneurship in the community.
- The speaker wants to make their own way in the industry and help others do the same.
- The speaker wants to be an owner in the industry rather than just a consumer.
Overcoming challenges in the industry 40:30
- People in the community are often only seen as consumers.
- There is a lack of guidance for people wanting to enter the industry.
- The speaker wants to build connections in the industry to help others succeed.
- There are still barriers to entry in the industry, even for people who have connections to established players.
- The speaker wants to make the industry more accessible to people of color.
Kiana’s Introduction 42:08
- Kiana talks about her experience as a licensee.
- She talks about the struggles and challenges she faced.
- She was surprised at how people talked about weed.
- Kiana was terrified because it was her first time meeting such people.
Lack of Opportunities 42:44
- People were not talking about weed from a business or medical perspective.
- There were no opportunities for people to start businesses.
- Women Grow was started to help women start businesses, but there were no opportunities then.
Starting Conversations 43:21
- Kiana aimed to start conversations about weed in the south suburbs.
- She started going to different events to educate people.
- She went to Colorado to attend the Women Grow Summit.
- Kiana was surprised to have a different experience with weed.
- She did outreach and education to make people aware of the benefits of weed.
Advocacy and Applying 46:21
- Advocates have to pay their dues while applying for licenses.
- It makes sense for advocates to participate in the industry they fought hard to open up.
- Sean got involved in the cannabis industry by accident.
- He was introduced to Mad Men and saw the benefits of cannabis.
- He attended a workshop with Edie and got hooked on moving forward with cannabis.
- Sean talks about how he got involved in the cannabis industry.
- He and Edie got the confidence and knowledge to move forward with the industry.
Economic barriers to entry 49:22
- The cannabis market is worth $100 million per month, but people from marginalized communities cannot participate.
- Social equity programs aim to address this issue and provide opportunities to these communities.
- Many people are being locked out of the market, particularly those in the craft grow line.
- Disputes and lawsuits are holding things up, but people are bleeding money and need to move now.
- In the last round of medical dispensaries, you had to control real estate, which was a huge barrier to entry.
- This time around, you don’t have to do that, which allows many participants who were previously unable to participate.
Chicago Normal’s role in the process 48:54
- Chicago Normal played a role in conceiving the opportunity for social equity applicants in the cannabis industry.
- They studied the law and interpreted it for others, which helped many avoid bleeding money as they did in the previous round of medical dispensaries.
- Chicago Normal is an organization that advocates for legalizing cannabis and other drug policy reforms.
Importance of unity 53:02
- The primary reason for stepping forward to give their narrative is to promote unity.
- Disenfranchisement is a big issue, but people must unite and push in the same direction.
- Some individuals are positioned and can participate in the cannabis market, but everyone needs to work together to fight for their positioning.
- The six people in the mix should be kept together, as their unity will help them work towards their goals.
Working Out the Social Equity Program 54:39
- The Social Equity Six in the Mix refers to the six applicants awarded cannabis licenses in Illinois under the state’s social equity program.
- Some teams may be willing to make sacrifices for the program.
- The program is imperfect, and some competitive processes must be resolved.
- The goal is to get more people of color into the program and to chart a clear path forward for those who didn’t make it the first time.
Keeping the Six in Mix 55:23
- The group wants to keep the six social equity applicants in the mix when the licenses are awarded and not leave them out.
- The lottery process could potentially leave out some of the social equity applicants.
- The group is nervous about this and wants to ensure that the social equity applicants get a fair chance.
Moving Forward 56:16
- The group is wrapping up and discussing the agenda in the future.
- They want to land this plane in the right country, if not in the bright state.
- The focus is on finding a creative solution to move forward with the second round of licenses.
Unifying the Black Community 57:43
- There has been a constant portrayal of black people being left out of the cannabis industry.
- The media uses specific tactics to divide and pit the black community against each other.
- The group urges the black community to recognize these tactics and unite to stand beside each other.
- They want to build a table for black people and are looking for black people to invest in black-owned businesses.
- The group wants unity from the black community to move forward with building the cannabis industry..
The importance of social equity in the cannabis industry 05:42
- Social equity creates opportunities for marginalized groups to participate in the cannabis industry.
- The War on Drugs disproportionately affected communities of color, resulting in mass incarceration and limited access to resources.
- The cannabis industry has the potential to create wealth and provide opportunities for these communities.
- However, there are barriers to entry, such as high startup costs and regulations that favor established businesses.
- Social equity programs aim to provide these communities with resources and support to overcome these barriers.
The struggle for social equity in the cannabis industry 01:01:39
- The struggle for social equity in the cannabis industry involves addressing the systemic barriers that prevent marginalized communities from accessing opportunities.
- The industry is still developing, and there are opportunities to shape policies and regulations to prioritize social equity.
- However, this requires action from government officials and industry leaders.
Proposal for social equity in the cannabis industry 01:04:15
- A group of six companies developed a proposal to address the barriers to social equity in the cannabis industry.
- The proposal aims to provide a path forward for non-veteran and veteran-owned companies to enter the industry.
- It also creates a cut or percentage score for those who did not receive “perfect scores” in the application process.
- The proposal has been submitted to legislators and the state for consideration.
Importance of unity in the cannabis industry 01:02:49
- The cannabis industry is still developing, and working together to shape policies and regulations prioritizing social equity is essential.
- We risk losing opportunities to established businesses if we do not act quickly and collaboratively.
- Unity is essential to ensure that the industry is inclusive and equitable.
Call to action for viewers 01:08:12
- The audience is encouraged to stay informed and engaged with the developments in the cannabis industry.
- The six companies involved in the proposal continue working towards social equity in the industry.
- Viewers are called upon to support these efforts and keep the conversation going.
Keep the Six in the Mix 01:08:23
- Referring to the six social equity applicants who won the lottery for cannabis dispensary licenses in Illinois
- The speakers expressed their support for keeping these applicants in the mix for ownership opportunities in the cannabis industry.
- They emphasize that the six applicants have earned their place in the mix and should not be disregarded.
- The group wants to change the one-sided narrative that exists in the industry and ensure that the stories of minority applicants are also told
Importance of Civic Engagement 01:12:38
- One of the speakers shares her experience of getting involved in politics and civic engagement through the cannabis industry
- She encourages everyone, especially people of color, to get involved in changing the system through different approaches and tactics
- Civic engagement is important in putting pressure on politicians and advocating for change
- The speaker urges people to knock on doors, meet with politicians, and voice their opinions on issues that matter to them
- Cannabis is one such issue that requires advocacy and civic engagement
Investing Back into the Black Community 01:10:46
- One of the speakers talks about the importance of investing money earned from the cannabis industry back into the black community
- They want to be creative in their approach and use the money to support community initiatives and programs
- The group believes that the black community is a targeted market with a strong community bond that cannot be bought
- They want to lead by example and show the Illinois industry how things should be done
- The group feels that they have an advantage in being able to support the community and make a difference with the money earned from the industry
- One of the speakers shares his excitement about being able to focus on those who have made it in the industry, rather than just perfect scores
- He emphasizes the need to lead by example and support the Illinois community in creative ways
- The group feels that they have an advantage in being able to invest money earned from the industry back into the community
- The video closes with a discussion on the importance of participating in civic engagement and making a difference in the cannabis industry.
Encouraging Involvement in the Industry 01:14:46
- People need to know what they are talking about and who they are talking to have meaningful conversations about the industry.
- Encouragement to be involved in the industry and contribute to conversations.
Achieving Generational Success Together 01:15:29
- The cannabis community should unite and work together to achieve generational success.
- Working together is the path forward.
- Gratitude for the guests for sharing their stories, experiences and feelings about the industry.
Thank you and Goodbye 01:15:45
- Thanks to the guests for making time and spending an hour and a half on the show.
- The episode was powerful and one of the favorites.
- The show was the first cannabis show and public format that the guest spoke on.
- The guests have been hanging out and talking about the industry for years.
- Respect for Donte for dragging his young family to a year’s worth of meetings.
- Excitement for doing it with people who have helped shape and develop the industry.
- Creating responsible vendor training platforms.
Unity Can Lift All Boats 01:19:58
- The rising tide can lift all boats if the community stops poking holes in them.
- Convincing those in the industry that unity can benefit everyone.