More than a dozen community activists, aspiring entrepreneurs, and licensed cannabis dealers attended an online conference Thursday, titled “Cannabis Business & Community Reinvestment: A Conversation,” aimed at promoting ideas and opportunities for small businesses and the community develop, join or profit from Pasadena’s limited but lucrative cannabis market.
The meeting also discussed the best ways for existing Pasadena cannabis vendors to return portions of their investments and profits to the local community that supports them.
The wide-ranging discussion was moderated by BOTEC Analysis’ Jessica Neuwirth and Clarissa Lliff, who were hired by the City of Pasadena to moderate the discussion.
As Lliff told the group, community reinvestment is also about social justice.
“The goal of social justice,” Lliff said, “is to ensure that people from communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and discriminatory law enforcement benefit from cannabis legalization.”
Lliff added that Pasadena requires that local cannabis companies commit to investing in community impact here in Pasadena, and that “this includes improving educational or youth development programs and violence prevention and often like volunteering, donations, or sponsorship of community events.” can look here in Pasadena.
“When we think of community investments that affect individuals,” she continued, “we often think that we’re stopping at the person who was arrested and forgetting the ripples this is creating in our communities,” she continued. That one person is so important and that’s what we should focus on.”
Lliff then asked attendees, “How should the Pasadena Cannabis business contribute to the community?”
As “Raul” noted, he chose to have the city provide space for community engagement (for vendors) as a type of business resource fair where vendors could meet cannabis store owners.
“I think the way to normalize something like this,” he said, “is through socialization, by getting people together. And honestly, if anyone can take that idea and go through with it, but you have food festivals, maybe you have something like that where vendors can come in and the small business owners of the cannabis industry and bring in food trucks and do some kind of event like this.”
More specifically, “Gina” offered that two organizations that would directly benefit from cannabis store contributions would be Day One and the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition.
She added: “Our roads are unsafe. I believe late last year a woman was hit by a car and sadly died. And so I think these organizations were trying to pressure the city to get some of that funding to work on this project. She added that she spoke to the CEO of Complete Streets, who stressed that “Pasadena streets are unsafe for Pasadena residents, especially young people going to and from school.”
Additionally, she named Day One, a 30-year-old community nonprofit dedicated to “culturally sensitive” education, intervention, and policy development in the San Gabriel Valley.
Another participant suggested a program similar to the Miami program known as the Children’s Trust, but where local businesses “tax themselves” to provide money for a fund that supports micro-scholarships for community organizations that support children’s programs. (At Miami’s Children’s Trust, funds are raised differently, through a voter-approved property tax.)
Other participants called for giving priority to local growers or agreeing to some form of “benefit agreement” in which local cannabis businesses would agree to purchase cannabis products from Pasadena growers as part of their current sales inventory.
Tim Dodd of SweetFlower, one of the few licensed cannabis stores in Pasadena, said he agreed with all of the proposals that were offered, noting, “I think there needs to be a distinction between commercial cannabis suppliers like Essence, Harvest, SweetFlower and Varda and other stores.
“I think it’s on people like us to help,” added Dodd. “I think it means mentorship, entrepreneurship, money, taxpayers’ money and also some meaningful community investment programs.”
“I think you need strong security,” he added. “They need some community funding. The city of Pasadena needs to support these things with money, skills and entrepreneurship.”