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  • Eli Hunt

Columbia Care, a Medical Marijuana Producer, is Partnering with Minority Groups to Encourage Equity

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Virginia Cannabis Producer Partners With Minority Groups for Cannabis Equality

Columbia Care Inc., an organization at the heart of the medical cannabis industry, announced recently that it will partner with three Virginia organizations— Nolef Turn, BIPOCANN, and VMCC— to address issues related to social equity within the cannabis community. These efforts are an extension of key equity precepts in the original legislation that gave Virginians access to medical marijuana cards and are designed to accelerate the success and viability of BIPOC in the growing Virginia cannabis industry.\

Columbia Care & Its Impact on the Cannabis Industry

Columbia Care already has a sizable presence in the medical marijuana space. As one of the largest multi-state operators in the medical cannabis industry, Columbia Care maintains licenses in 15 regions in the US and EU. Their efforts in partnership with these organizations in Virginia are a continuation of efforts pursued in other states, including Illinois and New York, where social initiatives have supported equity and increased revenue growth in the cannabis industry.

Within Virginia, the company has already made its impact known. Ngiste Abebe, Vice President of Public Policy at the Richmond branch of Columbia Care received a key appointment from Governor Northam in July of 2021, assuming a spot on the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council that will advise the Cannabis Control Authority’s board of Directors.

Equity: An Issue at the Heart of Virginia Marijuana Legislation

Equity was a central issue during the drafting of legislation related to the legalization of marijuana in Virginia. This follows a trend established over the last several years in other states going through the legalization process. Governor Northam and his allies in the state assembly went back and forth on addressing issues of equity in the legislation, focusing on righting wrongs incurred during the war on drugs.

Historically, black citizens of the Commonwealth were convicted at a much higher rate than white Virginians. For many of these black Virginians, marijuana convictions had long been a burden, preventing them from getting employment, loans, and more. Legislative efforts to legalize marijuana in Virginia centered, in part, on expunging past convictions and providing opportunities to those impacted by convictions.

When complications threatened to delay the date of legalization in the state, social equity advocates were the first to step up and demand a quicker timeline. Any delay, they argued, would only increase the impact of unfair and unexpunged convictions in the BIPOC community. Governor Northam agreed with this logic, and worked to ensure an earlier date of legalization.

These initiatives on the part of Columbia Care and its partner organizations are a continuation of these initial efforts. The coalition of groups is dedicated to making sure that the BIPOC community in Virginia has real opportunities in the state moving forward. The organizations will provide equity-focused resources for BIPOC members of the cannabis community in Virginia as that community continues to grow.

Bringing Their Own Strengths to Bear

Each group will focus on a particular area related to equity. Columbia Care plans to provide much of the financial support for these initiatives, funding social and educational resources across Virginia to as many citizens as possible.

Nolef Turn will provide direct services to and advocacy for those in need of help with resentencing or expungements. This group was established specifically for the advocacy of the convicted. Programs such as Nolef Turn’s Finding Forgiveness Campaign work to rehabilitate and support those burdened by convictions in the Commonwealth, where convictions that do not even involve served time can permanently mar an individual’s record.

VMCC, or the Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition, will focus on creating a network of BIPOC entrepreneurs across the state. In addition to this network, the organization will provide boot camps for social equity entrepreneurs as well as training for those who have been affected by cannabis convictions in the past. Current offerings from the organization include a 4-week bootcamp that teaches participants how to develop, finance, and launch a cannabis business in Virginia.

Finally, BIPOCANN’s efforts will center on increasing accessibility to the cannabis industry for BIPOC citizens of Virginia. Under-represented Virginians will receive the support they need to partner with diverse businesses and suppliers to benefit from profit opportunities in the space. Upcoming webinars offered by the organization include an Introduction to Plant-Touching Business Opportunities in Virginia. Membership within the organization will give BIPOC access to a network of connections, valuable vendor discounts, and free access to training webinars, as well as a listing in the organization’s growing database of cannabis suppliers.

All in, this coalition of partners should have an important impact both on BIPOC citizens of Virginia as well as on how the cannabis industry evolves in the next few years.

Get a Virginia Marijuana Card to Join a Growing Community!

Initiatives like these promise to grow the burgeoning cannabis industry in Virginia into a social and economic giant. Opportunities will only increase as more and more citizens of Virginia access the support they need to benefit from the growth of cannabis in the Commonwealth. To learn how you can get your own medical marijuana card and find the right product for you, schedule an appointment to talk to a cannabis healthcare expert today.


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