From criminal justice to business equity, these pro-cannabis groups are working toward a better future


Five organizations that champion social good in the cannabis industry

Smoking cannabis can relieve stress, pain and anxiety. It can abolish thoughts that prevent you from sleeping at night and intensify feelings of pleasure, although the industry itself is far from euphoric. In fact, as legalization spreads from state to state, inequality and injustice are increasingly difficult to ignore. But a myriad of organizations are committed to fighting for equity in the cultivation, sale and consumption of the plant. Here are five remarkable groups that the magazine Playboy has identified.

Cannabis Certification Board

Cannabis is not (yet) legal at the federal level, which means that it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, although the latter has approved some cannabis-related products. The Cannabis Certification Board is ready to fill this void. Ben Gelt, co-founder and chairman of the board of this Denver-based nonprofit, has worked in the sector since 2011. "I learned firsthand that Colorado and virtually every other state does had no quality control, no quality assurance built into the regulations, "says Ben Gelt.

People go to the clinic and say to themselves, "What is the strongest thing you have?"

In recent years, the CCC (Cannabis Control Commission) organized conferences on the sustainability of cannabis where industry experts can share eco-friendly tools and techniques. Later this year, the board plans to launch a "Grown Biologically" certification with specific labeling for indoor, greenhouse and outdoor hemp, as well as for the production of cannabis and cannabis by-products. In order to maintain transparency and prevent conflicts of interest, the process will use accredited third-party auditors and inspectors to assess companies against the new standard.

Although several certifications already exist in the industry, Mr. Gelt tells us that "many of them have fundamental structural flaws and, more importantly, none of them are immediately clear to the average consumer. or the industrialist ”.

The overall goal of the CAC is to give consumers the opportunity to think about cannabis as they do for organic berries, grass-fed beef or eggs from caged hens.

"People go to the clinic and say to themselves," What is the strongest thing you have? said Gelt. "That's what all the data on consumer behavior in cannabis stores says. They buy the cheapest and strongest product they can. It's like going to the liquor store and getting the cheapest “rectified alcohol”. Nobody does that, but that's what cannabis users do today. ”

The next time you go to a health center, ask yourself What is in my grass? And be on the lookout for this CCC certification.

Equity first

In states where cannabis use was, or still is, criminalized, the crackdown hits marginalized communities the hardest. Even when legalization arrives and the government tries to correct past wrongs (such as the war on drugs) with social equity programs enshrined in legalization, a lack of direction and compliance can make enforcement difficult. This is where Equity First comes in.

For example, the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation requires that every licensee in the city complete a corporate social responsibility report outlining how they will integrate social and environmental concerns into their business plans. According to co-founder Felicia Carbajal, Equity First is responsible for holding the city accountable.

In 2019, the organization of community leaders and activists, including members of Cage-Free Cannabis, the Smart Pharm Research Group and the Social Impact Center, collaborated with Local 770 of the United Food and Commercial Workers in a report calling on Los Angeles to apply existing cannabis policies and focus on community reinvestment: "One of the things we need to see across the country is that they are creating task forces on the health and social equity in cannabis ”, explains Felicia Carbajal about this basic effort, which is also aimed directly at license holders. Furthermore, they "demand a progressive and complete application of the law which does not put people back in prison".

Companies that are not accessible to their communities probably do little to help them; a constant demand for change from inside and outside Equity First is essential: "The biggest thing most people can do is just get active and start asking questions" says Mr. Carbajal. She suggests signing this petition, which calls for the immediate removal of admissible criminal records.

Then there is the ballot box: "I think people have to vote now more than ever. When we put legalization on the table, we need to make sure there is a remedy in the conversation. We cannot rely on the industry - any industry - to hold it responsible, unless we push it to be. ”

In the spring of 2020, this organization was dissolved.

"Last Prisoner" Project

In addition to getting people out of jail and helping them clear their files, the "Last Prisoner" project helps them access the resources they need to rebuild their lives. “LPP is working on a unique project, which is to create opportunities within the cannabis industry for those involved in the justice system and those who have suffered the harshest consequences of the ban and criminalization cannabis, ”said Sarah Gersten, the organization's executive director and general counsel.

The social justice network, which has existed for a year, believes that anyone who benefits from the advantages of legal grass has the "moral imperative" to help those who have suffered from its criminalization. According to Gersten, this work has become particularly important now that the United States is in the midst of a pandemic.

"Anyone currently detained, whatever their nature, is in the most vulnerable position," she said. “You are literally incapable of practicing social distancing. You do not have access to hygiene products, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, toilet paper. You can't control the air you breathe, the space you are in. ” In these circumstances, releasing the offenders and asking officials to stop arresting cannabis-related offenders is not only the right thing to do, says Gersten; "It is the only thing to do if we want to protect our communities."

“Call your legislators, send letters. Let them know that you don't think a cannabis-related offense should be treated like a death sentence.

Gersten and his peers urge those under self-quarantine to visit the Last Prisoner Project website for information on how to call their governors and prison officials. And they ask anyone involved in the manufacture or cultivation of cannabis who has access to masks and personal protective equipment to donate them to detention facilities, "both for detainees and for officers - measures really basic in trying to mitigate an epidemic. "

You can also act at the federal level through petitions asking officials to take steps to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on prisoners, including the release of low-level offenders who pose no risk to public safety and people over 65 if they are within six months of their release. "It is really important in this context to sign petitions like this," said Mr. Gersten. “Call your legislators, send letters. Let them know that you want to jail, that you want to protect our incarcerated communities, and that you don't believe that a cannabis-related offense - a low-level offense - should be equated with a death sentence. ”

Association of Minority Cannabis Companies

Jason Ortiz, chairman of the board of directors of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, has been interested in cannabis legislation since his teens. "I was arrested in high school for simple possession and was able to learn all about the criminal justice system, the war on drugs and all of those good things," he says. At university, Ortiz joined a group called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. This group trained him as an activist, and he still has been since.

The MCBA is a professional association aimed at entrepreneurs, workers and consumers of cannabis belonging to minorities. She sees the cannabis industry as an opportunity to level the playing field for people of color who are entrepreneurial. "If we don't have the hardest hit communities, usually poor communities of color, as part of this legal industry, the black market will go on forever," says Ortiz.

The organization's status as a not-for-profit trade league means that it can lobby, but Mr. Ortiz says it does more than just advocate for or against other people's bills; it creates its own bills and pushes for their implementation. "I think the most important job we do is bring the cannabis color community together to find consensus on what we want, what programs really work, what we can learn from places that do it well Says Ortiz. "Then we can take this information and share it with everyone across the country."

The organization also acts as a networking platform for entrepreneurs of color who need venture capital. In 2019, for example, it partnered with Merida to launch the inclusive industry accelerator (“i2”) to accelerate the development of minority businesses. "We got about half a million dollars spread over five companies for seed capital to help them get started," says Ortiz.

As head of a business association, he focuses on the future and the growth potential of the sector: "The momentum is on our side, and whatever the difficulties, it is always on the rise".


If you know the history of Playboy, you may know that of NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Cannabis Laws and its militant fight for legalization across the country. The organization, which was initially funded by Hugh Hefner and which currently has more than 150 chapters worldwide, represents much more than the legal right to consume weed.

"Despite the fact that there are 11 states where legalization is in effect, in 2018, more than 600000 Americans were arrested for possession of marijuana," says executive director Erik Altieri. "While we have made great strides in changing state laws in some places, there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans each year who are handcuffed, have a criminal record, and suffer the collateral consequences of that locker and who must live under prohibition. "

We still see people being fired from their jobs for being tested positive for marijuana.

When a state is moving towards legalization, NORML works to set up an automatic write-off program for anyone with a criminal record for possession of marijuana. It also ensures that consumers get quality, tested and affordable products, and it fights discrimination in the workplace related to drug testing policies. "We still see people being fired for being tested positive for marijuana, even though it is now legal in the state," said Altieri.

Although NORML works on all fronts, from protecting civil liberties to promoting social justice, its main objective, according to the Executive Director, is "to enable ordinary citizens to engage in the political process and to change the laws in their own community. " We provide many tools, not only to educate you, but also to make it easy for you to contact your state officials and local officials by email and telephone to advocate for these policy changes and specific legislation. "

Tags : JusticeNORMLpoliceProhibition