Cannabis may be creating new jobs and business opportunities for some, but for those with previous cannabis-related convictions, even if those violations are no longer illegal, legitimate access to the industry is still elusive.
In tune with social equity programs appearing across the country, Cresco Labs has established an initiative known as Social Equity and Educational Development (SEED). SEED works to help qualifying candidates who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs gain entrance into Illinois’ cannabis industry.
“There are communities all over the state and country that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs,” Cresco Labs co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Charlie Bachtell said in a statement. “When the conversation shifts from talking about cannabis for helping with symptoms of epilepsy, to cannabis as a commodity that anyone over the age of 21 can legally buy, it’s imperative we shift, too. As good stewards of the industry, we want to make it as inclusive as possible and providing a pathway to opportunity is simply the right thing to do.”
Cresco’s SEED program assists applicants in creating a dispensary business plan, which includes layout and security protocols. Cresco also provides financial planning for ensuring success. Participants in the program receive one-on-one training and advice about how to best maximize their chances of submitting a successful application.
Although most are aware of the negative impact the war on drugs has had, especially in communities with people of color, it is not enough to simply recognize it as a failed enforcement strategy—real opportunity for success may be the only remedy for decades of ill-intended law enforcement policies.
“Like many other applicants in the program, I’ve witnessed the devastating impact the war on drugs has had on our community and the people in it,” said Alice Carter, a social equity applicant from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood of Chicago. “This is an amazing opportunity to take something that caused so much devastation and despair and turn it into something positive for areas all over our state. To me, opening my own business means more than personal success; it’s about bringing economic growth, empowerment, redevelopment, and jobs back to my community. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from and be recognized by one of the most distinguished companies in the industry—and to know they support the success of myself and my community.”