Opportunities and Barriers: Understanding the Black Experience in Cannabis
Over the past two decades, cannabis legalization has remained a divisive topic. This fall, The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) presented “The Black Experience in Cannabis.” The ALC is a premier public policy conference that brings together almost 9,000 people to explore issues affecting African-Americans and black communities around the world. The conference featured 70 policy sessions, a National Town Hall, a job and contract procurement fair, the Phoenix Awards Dinner, and more. ALC provides a unique marketing and collaborative opportunity for companies and organizations, providing access to attendees representing significant consumer markets at the local, state, and national levels.
“The Black Experience in Cannabis.” was the first international representation of people of color’s narrative in cannabis with panels comprised of industry experts, scientists, physicians, politicians, and advocacy professionals. By discussing a wide range of cannabis market topics, the program sought to provide attendees with education that would lead to a deeper understanding of the cannabis industry.
At CohnReznick, we promote and embrace diversity and inclusion. Through educational programs, thought leadership, and a culture that leverages individual qualities, we seek to drive growth, innovation, and value for our people, our clients, our profession, and our communities. CohnReznick’s participation in the “The Black Experience in Cannabis” included members of the Cannabis Industry practice and the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative.
Michael Harlow, Tax Partner – CohnReznick, was a keynote speaker discussing the 280E Bill as well as regulatory barriers to entry in various cannabis markets across the country. Following the event, Harlow sat down to interview Kia L. Jackson, CEO of W.O.M.M.A.N LLC (Word of Mouth Marketing and Networking) and Founder of “The Black Experience in Cannabis.”
KI: The focus on medicine is intended to change minds and cultural issues that persist around cannabis as a medicine. When we think of the plant as a medicine, we can re-frame the discussion as a biological and human right to medicate. Polling data shows that the public is supportive of cannabis as medicine, but education is still needed for them to understand exactly what this means. For a long time, marijuana was referred to as an illegal drug (states)and once it became legal, (state) the scientific term cannabis emerged to help change marijuana’s perception.
The Black Experience in Cannabis’ global narrative leveraged the topic of cannabis as a medicine for two main reasons. First, focusing on cannabis as a medicine is essential to the story line of de-scheduling and decriminalizing. The second reason is to make it personal for the targeted audience. When we can begin to talk about the medicinal components of an endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid health advantages that can benefit just about everyone, people are more likely to listen in and care because they know it can directly affect their own health. People are less likely to invest in things that do not impact them directly. If we can teach you about the plant as a medicine, its benefits to your health, and how your genetic make-up has its own endocannabinoid system and daily supplements of CBD to feed that system, you want to listen and know more. Healthy living and environmental sustainability are extremely popular globally. The U.S. must catch up. Education is the way to change minds and change a culture.
KI: I gauged the success of this event by the feedback I received from the CBC ALC staff, general attendees, targeted audience attendees and other participants. Success occurs when the goals of an event are met and ideally exceeded. Our call to action was clear. We wanted attendees to go back to their respective states and be able to advocate or participate in any policy reform by their understanding of how blacks and people of color are faring in this emerging cannabis industry. Just bringing together a diverse panel of industry experts from the U.S. and Jamaica signified success to our goals of a global narrative. New relationships and alliances were formed because of this event’s success. “The Black Experience in Cannabis” came together by the combined efforts of many different people and organizations whether through financial, resources, or physical support.
As a Firm, CohnReznick believes our clients benefit from our best ideas when we maintain an inclusive, multidimensional firm culture. Our diverse viewpoints will help drive growth, innovation, and value for your company. The unique beliefs, backgrounds, ways of thinking, talents, and capabilities of our employees are strategic assets to the firm and our clients. As such, we were honored to participate in the “The Black Experience in Cannabis”.