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As founder and CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Roz McCarthy has spoken to hundreds of state and federal lawmakers, C-suite executives, mom-and-pop operators as well as advocacy groups eager to help shape the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

M4MM, as her Orlando-based nonprofit is known online, has been on the frontlines of advancing economic opportunity for people of color — especially for African Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by the so-called War on Drugs.

“When we talk about legalization, it revolves around decriminalization of the plant, as well as economic opportunities that each state can look at as they are rolling out new medical programs and an adult-use program,” said McCarthy, who will be a speaker for a special July 13 national webinarCannabis Reform 2020: America’s Growing Pains & Possibilities.” Register for tickets here.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about the bottomline,” she said. “If you want me to spend money with you, if you want to do business with me, you need to show me that the inside of your organization looks like the world that we live in.”

Joining McCarthy on July 13 will be several industry power players, including Leo Bridgewater, national director at Reine Media, known primarily for his advocacy for veterans and cannabis reform including his work to pass legislation for additional recognition and coverage of medical treatment options; Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project; former Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who is now senior advisor to the governor of Illinois for Cannabis Control; and, David Clapper, Ethos CFO and president of operations in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, chair of the influential House Committee on Rules, will join us as the keynote speaker for this special virtual event.

McCarthy spoke to Enrique Lavin, NJ Cannabis Insider publisher and editor, ahead of next week’s event. The Q&A was edited for space and clarity. The full conversation first appeared in NJ Cannabis Insider.

Q: With America facing another reckoning on race, what are you telling corporate cannabis companies they need to do right now to make a real impact?

A: I tell large cannabis companies that this is a reset button. You have individuals, activists, consumers, business owners, advocacy groups, Black, white, purple doesn’t matter, who are really holding the industry to task. If we think about how this industry was built, it was really built on the backs of Black and brown people who were incarcerated. And we’re seeing the proliferation of new millionaires in this industry. Now people are holding these new organizations and these corporations accountable to the people who have been most harmed.

The George Floyd tragedy really amplified the systemic racism that is pervasive throughout the country. But even more so we’re going to be focused on cannabis. And there are some systemic, implicit bias things happening within our industry that we have to do away with to make a difference. We have to identify it, we have to root it out and then we have to do some type of action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Q: What does accountability in the industry look like?

A: My question to the industry, to those corporations is, “How do you take your intentions and put them into action? And what can we do to help you?” I would say this: do what you do. If you make good weed, then make good weed. If you want to do social programs, come to the organizations who do social programs. Lend your support, your resources, your privilege, your relationship to help us do the work. Let us do the work and show a public-private partnership together.

Q: This industry has seen plenty of white-owned businesses buying the majority of licenses effectively shutting out Black and brown people. Here in New Jersey, there’s been a concerted effort through legislation to set aside licenses to operate for minority owned businesses. Is regulation the answer?

A: Policy is a way to help to balance out the playing field. But it’s not only policy, there also has to be some type of systemic change within the industry. It really can start with our large corporations who spend millions of dollars lobbying. If they were to lobby for interest that support Black and brown businesses, not only do the Black and brown businesses win, they win.

Q: What are your thoughts on the New Jersey State Legislature possibly voting to decriminalize weed — bills that were reintroduced in direct response to the social unrest sparked by George Floyd’s killing?

A: For me, decriminalization should be a starting point and not the end point. If you’re going to be looking at bringing on an adult-use bill, there should be social justice bills that are attached. And those consists of two things: decriminalization — you can’t create an adult-use program for a state and not have the accompanying decriminalization bill. Take out the rehab stuff, it doesn’t make any sense. If you’re going to decriminalize, that means you should not be criminalized for possessing the plant. Period.

The second piece is on the expungement and clearing up records. If you’ve been pinched before for a personal use amount of the plant, you should have your record automatically cleared. We should not start talking about adult-use bills or expanding the medical program until we deal the social issues and the social harms of legalization. Let’s work together through policy and through legislative language to make sense out of this. It should be pretty black and white in my opinion.

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For the July 13 event, audience members will be able to post questions in advance of the webinar, which starts 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. PST). After the live event, attendees will have an opportunity to continue the discussion and network in a closed forum, moderated by journalists covering marijuana and hemp industries.

To reserve tickets, go to advance360.com/cannabis-insider-live.

NJ Cannabis Insider, a local sponsor, is a weekly subscriber-based trade journal produced by NJ Advance Media, which has also produced several live events.

As with its May event, featuring Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Cannabis Insider has has partnered with Advance Local sister media groups across the country, including Staten Island Advance, Advance Media New York, PennLive, LehighValleyLive, MassLive, MLive, Advance Ohio and Oregonian Media Group.

For more information, you may reach us via email here.



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