Soooo...a lot has happened in the past 6 months! (understatement of the year, yes I know)
October 2019, I went to the first city of Chicago cannabis zoning meeting at Malcom X College where I listened to the mayor’s office make their argument as to why dispensaries shouldn’t be allowed in downtown Chicago. Their excuse was that they wanted large multi-state operators (MSOs) to open dispensaries in neighborhoods negatively affected by the war on drugs to help give people in those neighborhoods jobs.
That didn’t make any sense to me. So I raised my hand and explained to the panel and everyone else in the room, that these large MSO’s have the funds to open up their dispensaries anywhere including downtown Chicago. But if they’re forced to only open in the local neighborhoods, they will take up the valuable and already extremely limited real estate needed from other potential dispensary owners who are from those neighborhoods and want to open in those neighborhoods should they get a license.
These large billion-dollar cannabis corporations are going to open a dispensary wherever they are allowed to and they have the funds already allocated for the real estate. But someone like myself can’t afford to open a dispensary downtown even if I were allowed to do so. So forcing these large cannabis corporations into our local neighborhoods made no sense if the city really wanted social equity in the new industry. The city was taking into account people from the neighborhood who want to work at a dispensary, but they didn’t take into account people from those neighborhoods who want to own a dispensary.
After I was done speaking, then entire crowd in the room irrupted in applause! My point seemed to hit the mark and a few weeks later that rule was reversed by the city.
After the zoning meeting Tom Schuba, a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times, came over to me and asked would i mind speaking to him on the record on what I just told the panel. I did and that was the first time i made the Chicago Sun-Times...but it wouldn’t be my last.
Mid-October, I went on an amazing trip to Senegal for 2 weeks. When I came back, Tom reached out to me and asked would I mind speaking to him more about my efforts to apply for a dispensary license and to speak more about the legal cannabis industry in Illinois and around the country. Of course, it being my first major publication interview, I jumped at the opportunity!
We had a hour long phone interview that I thought went pretty well. Fast forward to December 23, 2019...a date that will forever live in infamy in my mind,... my phone interview ending up being the cover story on the Chicago Sun-times!!!
I'd grown up reading the Chicago Sun-Times. It was always considered the “people's paper” in Chicago. So to be on the cover talking about my business and black ownership in the cannabis industry was beyond a dream come true.
As you can imagine, for a few weeks life went a little haywire. People googled my name and because I’m a realtor my business phone number and email have been online for years. Random people I didn’t know started calling and emailing me, sending resumes and asking for advice on how they could get in the cannabis industry. It was a surreal experience.
All while this is happening, I was still working on my dispensary license applications. Earlier in the fall I had came to an agreement to create a partnership with Columbia Care (a MSO currently operating in Illinois) to pursue dispensary licenses in Illinois. The due date was January 2, 2020 and the pressure to get things done was real.
December 27th, I did a radio interview with WGN radio.
January 3rd 2020, the day after I turned in our 10 dispensary license applications, I did an on camera interview (which hasn't aired) with the Chicago Suntimes at their headquarters in the West Loop. The interview went so well, the people at CST asked if I would help them create cannabis content educating the public on how to legally buy and responsibly use weed! WHAT?!?! YES!!! AMAZING!!!
Then in February, I did my first paid public speaking engagement with Braintree, PayPal and Venmo at The Merchandise Mart for their Black Futures Month event. There I spoked on a panel with my attorney and other industry insiders of color about growing up in Chicago, race issues, and our efforts in the cannabis industry.
I had made public speaking a goal of mine for 2020. So for my first engagement to be a paid one with me talking about weed to Braintree employees was really a blessing.
There’s also a couple more interviews with other huge publications that haven’t come out yet but I am really excited about and can’t wait to share. Of course when those drop I’ll be the first to let people know.
Then the coronavirus came and fucked up all the momentum!
But looking on the bright side, this quarantine has given me the opportunity to reflect on all the great things I've been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. And prepare for everything that I know is about to come. I really wanted to make myself a thought leader in the cannabis space this year and these media outlets were a great way to kick all that off. I'm so grateful for all these experiences and opportunities it's still shocking to my own system just thinking about it.
For all those looking for a way to get in the cannabis industry, I hope the biggest take away you get from this post is to get involved in your local community and stay ready. Because you never know when you'll have the opportunity to talk about legal weed like a pro!
Happy 4/20 month!!!