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

Five organizations defending social good in the cannabis industry

Smoking cannabis can relieve stress, pain, and anxiety. It can suppress thoughts that keep you awake at night and heighten feelings of fun, although the industry itself is far from euphoric. In fact, as legalization spreads from state to state, inequalities and injustices 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 notable 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 a few 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 this industry since 2011. “I learned first-hand 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's the strongest thing you have?

In recent years, the CCC (Cannabis Control Commission) has hosted Cannabis Sustainability Conferences where industry experts can share eco-friendly tools and techniques. Later this year, the council plans to launch an “Organically Grown” certification with specific labeling for indoor, greenhouse and outdoor hemp, as well as for the production of cannabis and by-products derived from cannabis. In order to maintain transparency and prevent conflicts of interest, the process will rely on 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 flaws in their structure and, more importantly, none of them are immediately clear to the average consumer. or the manufacturer ”.

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

“People come to the clinic and say, 'What's the strongest thing you have? Gelt said. “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 are doing today ”.

The next time you go to a dispensary, ask yourself What's in my weed? And be on the lookout for this CCC certification.

Equity first "Equity First"

In states where cannabis use was, or still is, criminalized, repression hits marginalized communities harder. Even when legalization comes and the government tries to right past wrongs (like the war on drugs) with social equity programs enshrined in legalization, a lack of direction and compliance can make their execution difficult. This is where comes in Equity First.

For example, the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation requires every license holder in the city to 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, it's up to Equity First to hold 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 to a report calling on Los Angeles to enforce 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 cannabis. health and social equity in cannabis, ”explains Felicia Carbajal of this grassroots effort, which also speaks directly to licensees. In addition, they "demand a gradual and complete application of the law which does not put people back in jail."

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Businesses that are not accessible to their communities are unlikely to do much to help them; a constant demand for change from inside and outside Equity First is essential: "The greatest thing most people can do is just get activated and start asking questions" , says Carbajal. She suggests signing this petition, which calls for the immediate expungement of eligible criminal records.

And then there's the ballot box: “I think people need to go and vote now more than ever. When we put legalization on the table, we need to make sure that there is a remedy to be made in the conversation. We can't count on industry - any industry - to be held accountable, unless we push them to be ”.

In the spring of 2020, this organization was dissolved.

Project "Last prisoner

Besides 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 prohibition and criminalization. cannabis, ”explains Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel for the organization.

The social justice network, which has been in existence for a year, believes that anyone who enjoys the benefits of legal weed has a "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 cannot control the air you breathe, the space you are in ”. Under these circumstances, releasing the offenders and asking officials to stop arresting those guilty of cannabis-related offenses is not only the right thing to do, says Gersten; "It's the only thing to do if we want to protect our communities."

“Call your legislators, send letters. Let them know that you don't believe that a cannabis offense should amount to a death sentence.

Gersten and his peers urge those on self-quarantine orders to check the Last Prisoner Project website for instructions 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, "for both detainees and officers - measures really basic in trying to mitigate an epidemic ”.

You can also take action at the federal level through petitions calling on officials to take action to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on incarcerated people, 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 release. “It is really important in this context to sign petitions like this,” says Gersten. “Call your legislators, send letters. Let them know that you want to decarcerate, that you want to protect our incarcerated communities and that you don't believe that a cannabis offense - a low level offense - should be equated to 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 he was a teenager. “I was arrested in high school for simple possession and got to learn all about the criminal justice system, the war on drugs and all that good stuff,” he says. In college, Ortiz joined a group called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. This group trained him as an activist, and he has been ever since.

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The MCBA is a trade association for entrepreneurs, workers and users of cannabis belonging to minorities. She sees the cannabis industry as an opportunity to level the playing field for enterprising people of color. “If we don't have the most affected 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 nonprofit trade league means it can lobby, but Ortiz says it doesn't just advocate for or against other people's bills; it creates its own bills and lobbies for their implementation. “I think the most important job we do is bringing the cannabis community of color together to find consensus on what we want, what programs are actually working, what we can learn from places that are doing it well. Says Ortiz. "Then we can take that information and share it with everyone across the country."

The organization also acts as a networking platform for entrepreneurs of color in need of venture capital. In 2019, for example, it partnered with Merida to launch the Inclusive Industry Accelerator (“i2”) to accelerate the development of minority-owned businesses. “We got about half a million dollars split between five companies for seed capital to help them get started,” says Ortiz.

As the head of a business association, he focuses on the future and the growth potential of the sector: "The momentum is on our side, and no matter how difficult it is, it is always on the rise".


If you know the story of Playboy, you might know the one NORML, or the National Organization for Cannabis Law Reform and its militant fight for legalization across the country. The organization, originally funded by Hugh Hefner and now has more than 150 chapters worldwide, stands for 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-level laws in some places, there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans each year who are handcuffed, who have criminal records, who suffer the collateral consequences of this record and who must live under prohibition ”.

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

When a state moves towards legalization, NORML works to set up an automatic de-listing 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 are still seeing people being fired for testing positive for marijuana, even though this activity is now legal in the state," says 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 change the laws in their own community ”. We provide plenty of tools, not only to educate you, but also for you to easily reach out to your state officials and local officials by email and phone to advocate for these policy changes and specific legislation. ".

Tags : JusticeNORMLOrganisationpoliceProhibition

The author Weed-master

Weed media broadcaster and communications manager specializing in legal cannabis. Do you know what they say? knowledge is power. Understand the science behind cannabis medicine, while staying up to date with the latest health related research, treatments and products. Stay up to date with the latest news and ideas on legalization, laws, political movements. Discover tips, tricks and how-to guides from the most seasoned growers on the planet as well as the latest research and findings from the scientific community on the medical qualities of cannabis.