008: How Cannabis Companies Can Embrace Inclusivity with Mary Pryor
008: How Cannabis Companies Can Embrace Inclusivity with Mary Pryor
Drug laws at the city, state, and federal levels have been used for almost a century to disproportionately punish people of color. Despite making up only 31.5% of the United States’ population, 46.9% of people arrested for violating drug laws are Black or Latino, and it’s never hard to find news stories of white offenders who get much more lenient sentences – if they’re punished at all.
Mary Pryor is working to change this. She’s the Chief Marketing Officer at Tonic CBD and Tricolla Farms, as well as the Co-Founder of Cannaclusive, a company created to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers. At Cannaclusive, she helps brands to communicate with diverse audiences and ensure that minority consumers are not an afterthought, but a valued ally in the fight for legalization and destigmatization.
Today, Mary joins the podcast to talk about the racism at the heart of American cannabis laws, how citizens can become activists and help her in her work to change these policies, and how both states and growing brands can help to build a more inclusive industry.
- What has led the cannabis industry to what Mary calls a “quarter-life crisis” – and what this will mean for many businesses as cannabis becomes more and more like a commodity.
- Why so many people turning massive profits from legal cannabis are white investors with intergenerational wealth – and how Mary is working to help minority entrepreneurs and investors increase awareness and grow as they build legal cannabusinesses.
- Why Mary thinks full federal legalization could come as soon as 2020.
“What you learned about cannabis from your grandma, your granddad, your aunt, your uncle, your mom, or your dad was by somebody else driving that narrative. We have to shake people out of that.” – Mary Pryor
“From Rockefeller laws to the war on drugs, the plant has been totally weaponized. It’s the main reason why it’s taking people forever to get over their own stigma and why stigma still exists.” – Mary Pryor
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Rick Kiley: Hello everybody and welcome back to The Green Repeal. I am your co-host, Rick Kiley. I’m joined by my partner Jeffrey Boedges.
Jeff Boedges: Hola.
Rick Kiley: And we are here today with Mary Pryor who is the co-founder of Cannaclusive and she is going to explain to you what Cannaclusive is. Mary, welcome to The Green Repeal.
Mary Pryor: Hi. This sounds fun.
Jeff Boedges: It is fun.
Rick Kiley: I think as we’re getting started here, can you provide us a little bit of background on who you are, what you do, and your role in relation to the cannabis industry?
Rick Kiley: The primary reason we’re actually having you here today is we’ve been talking a lot about why we’re in the state that we’re in, in the United States with cannabis and its legal status that it’s in today. One of the topics of conversation we wanted to cover off on was that of criminal justice, criminal justice reform, and how that is relating to the problem and sort of unwinding of these laws. So, can you help us lay some groundwork about how much this country has spent to enforce cannabis laws or at least non-violent crimes? And I don’t know if that’s different today versus the height of the war on drugs, but do you have any information you can help us understand sort of where that’s at right now?
Mary Pryor: We have fallen into this prohibition era due to really lies and propaganda and trying to weaponize prejudice along with material science and really, really horrible remiss information education on the plant starting in the 1900s. So, I could say the three things that are obvious is what one racism to the fight to get rid of him as a growing item that was competing with timber back then, but really racism as the leading option along with protection of like just a lot of really controlling what I was saying, keeping things in the status quo has been biggest item that’s kept cannabis where it is. From Rockefeller laws to the war on drugs, the plant has been totally weaponized. It’s the main reason why it’s taking people forever to get over their own stigma and why stigma still exists. And you know, I can say as a black woman who has experienced stigma and racism in various parts of various industries, from tech to advertising, to media and music, to academia, I would also say that it’s those same ignorances that keep everything where they are in other industries across in a lot of different ways.
I think that where we’re at right now, though, is sadly, this country is not making money that people think that this country is making and now we’re looking at the birth of this becoming the commodity that the country will eventually turn to. And I think it’s an interesting point because now we are witnessing the birth of a commodity and all the dips and downs of it. So, you know, within the past few weeks, the past few months, you see companies downsize by half, let go of one-third their staff, drop into the fair market, and this is all part of even how the liquor market started becoming an item. This is how you have the start of certain commodities or certain field crops even going through these twists and turns. You’ve seen the prices of hemp and the derivatives of hemp isolates and distillates dropped drastically because it’s overflooding the market. So, there are people that are definitely catching on which is way different from when I publicly threw myself into this more full-time two years ago. But the industry is in a quarter-life crisis so to speak. If you look at a couple of the states that were already, you know, having medical programs or recreational programs and development or even just like growing.
So, I am very hopeful for what’s to come, but I’m super, super concerned and very, very aware and still seeing that equity and making this accessible for all from even a tax level is not happening and that is a big problem. And that’s a reason why certain states that were banking on this being what it is are not even getting there.
Rick Kiley: Right. I want to come back to the situation you’re talking about that certain states are trying to legalize but before we do that, you mentioned the racism, you mentioned minority communities sort of they’ve been – I’ve read all of them like stats about how minority communities have far more arrests for marijuana possession or the least there.
Mary Pryor: Yeah. I mean, yeah, like stop and frisk. Everything is even the advent of for those who are not aware of what’s happening in New York, even just like additional cop hiring of the transit system to target people that are definitely not even able to afford but $3 to go on the train, right? There’s a lot of items that are weaponized against black and brown people. This idea of cannabis being a drug that allows black men to rape white women from movies in the 30s, it’s all been a propaganda game or the idea that Mexicans are growing tons of weed and distributing it to kids and now kids are addicted to meth, making wild connections between the plant, as you know, the item that has similar effects, as you know, some of the most craziest drugs and even opioids in this country, which isn’t necessarily true.
Jeff Boedges: We are living in the golden age of conspiracy theory right now. So, yeah, there’s plenty of suspicious reasons.
Mary Pryor: Yeah. I think that it’s kind of crazy that now we’re all in our own little way discovering all the conspiracy theories that we thought were kind of, “Wait a minute,” are actually true as we are getting older especially as we look at the world share information around us but cannabis is definitely a propaganda-led campaign. And that on top of people just wanting to be rich and be sold and be exclusionary, on top of the real wealth distribution of money and capital and the facts behind where people are really trying to see this go and not even keep quality product and keep quality at top of mind is all a big problem right now and it’s affecting everyone. You know, you have the base crisis, which is a whole other issue in itself but the prices of $80, $90 rates will make more and more people consider getting unlicensed unmark products on the street for $10, $20, $30 a part. And when you have states like we have LA County charging crazy taxes, and now this like 45% tax and it’s just crazy. That’s not helpful in terms of building an industry that will be accessible to anyone because it’s not just people that look like me that aren’t going to buy it. You’re not going to go buy a $90 vape. That’s wild. And I know there are vapes on sale in New York like a 500-milligram vape is like $135.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Through the medical program, they’re pretty expensive and well above what you can get from the guy. You just go and I think that’s true pretty much everywhere. Everybody we spoke to, every state that’s got a medical program and/or our rec program, the black market still is cutting the price by a significant amount.
Jeff Boedges: Now, is that something that Cannaclusive is trying to help with? Is that trying to make some of these medicines more available or some of these products cheaper in order to make them more readily available, or you guys really more…?
Mary Pryor: So, a lot of what we talked about is how people can talk to their city and government officials about these issues to make more things more readily available along with supporting organizations that drive equity and sustainability and even my work in terms of working for Tonic as Chief Marketing Officer. We’re a sustainable hemp operation that also makes high quality organically sustainable created CBD sublinguals. We have a vaporizer and we have a topical. It was one of the first products I fell in love with that actually worked that I actually paid for. I care about efficacy and honesty and anything that I see or do and I can just even talk about it from like, you know, no one out here is going to eat cereal and now cereal is full of things that we didn’t know about cereal when we were first eating cereal. It had empty calories and doesn’t really give us the nutrition that we need and how it was made to be like a catchall given what was happening in the 30s, 40s, the 1900s, especially during like World War II and the advent of the 50s and the 60s. So, a lot of these different shifts and changes we’ve seen in the food industry with what we eat, what we care about, and what we do definitely affect cannabis on top of access to the medicine at a cost that is realistic for people that do have chronic health issues or do have something going on or they do just want to use it to use.
I don’t find the difference between medical and recreational to be what people think it is. But I do think that we are not being honest about racism in general in this country. So, the fact that we are seeing this in cannabis is no surprise to me. You’re speaking to someone who’s had, you know, I’m in my 30s. I’ve had a pretty good amount of experience being black. It didn’t just start for me.
Rick Kiley: It didn’t just start this year? Really? Interesting.
Mary Pryor: No. It did not just start this year. Crazy. Crazy. I know. And you know, all the things that most of white America is now starting to realize I’ve been experiencing since I was like four years old. So, the first time I was called the N-word was in kindergarten by another kid. So, it’s not exactly clear what’s the right way or the wrong way but everyone should know that what you have thought about cannabis from your grandma, your granddad, your aunt, your uncle, your mom or dad have all been telling you the bad, that has been led by somebody else driving that narrative and we have to shake people out of that, that we can get things moving in a real way, especially when it comes to legalization and allowing things to open in states or driving people to allow for this industry to work in their municipalities.
Rick Kiley: So, I want to come back quickly to like the more recent racism or in selective enforcement of these laws such as stop and frisk, but I know that’s like a New York thing, but that sort of selective enforcement I think we’ve seen elsewhere. And we know that the stats have shown that minorities and African American communities, they are hit harder.
Jeff Boedges: It’s far disproportionally.
Rick Kiley: Very disproportionate. And so, we have a lot of people that are now incarcerated much more so than white people but we got a lot of people who are sitting in jail right now at this moment because of pretty strict sentencing laws like three strikes and you’re out, for instance. I guess in your view, how many people, what are we talking about in terms of the size of the population that is probably now incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes? Like how big a deal is that right now and the work that you’re doing is trying to help serve those people or help to…
Jeff Boedges: To get justice.
Mary Pryor: For me, it’s not doing enough directly but we do care about trying to work with organizations that drive that. My dream is to be able to work with people that target communities, especially women that have been put into situations given non-violent offenses and drug-related crimes. I want to make that more of a focus in 2020, but the only thing that we do support and talk about is we’re doing what the easiest thing anyone can do is sharing those stories, making sure that this community is brought up to officials that want to understand how this community and still is a community of people that can be anyone that can end up in jail for these charges. This isn’t just a poor black stereotype issue. This is a real thing. I can get thrown in jail. And I’ve had situations where if I didn’t have three medical cards from three different states on me, I could have on top of like a medical card that lists out that I have Crohn’s and my doctor like I could have been in jail. So, I’m easily targeted because I look the way that I look, which is the biggest problem, which again, originates to racism and prejudice existing in our country, period. So, I would say to answer your question was to simply there’s more that I want to do but no one, A, paid for advocacy work which relates to us. And two, in Cannaclusive, we started taking on marketing projects because in order to fund this work, we have to start making money.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Right. And you’re not working for no money. I understand. So, let’s move forward then I think to the point where you touched on earlier in our conversation. There’s a sense I think, Jeff, you wrote this down that there’s an exclusion of African Americans from today’s cannabis industry. Do you want to talk about that?
Jeff Boedges: Even just from my experience just going to the number of different cannabis-related meetings and associations that I’ve been to, it’s a fairly white room, which I don’t think it all mirrors the black market that it’s been. I think that there’s been a lot more oddly inclusion in the legal side of it. And now when you look at, and obviously that that has had negative effects on the community as far as the number of people of color who were incarcerated. But now when you look at the legal side of things, it seems to be benefiting primarily people not of color and people really from who have generational wealth, people who have enough money to be able to invest in that space. And it’s kind of leaving behind people of color who have borne the brunt of the incarcerations and their prosecutions based on the illegal market. So, I guess what I’m trying to say or what I would like to know from you, Mary, is what is Cannaclusive doing in order to help people of color to get into the industry, an industry that they should benefit from since they’ve actually borne the brunt of the penalties over these years?
Mary Pryor: We have three things that I care about the most. One, we do a lot of educational events too. We do a lot of support with ancillary events, ancillary businesses, and plant-touching businesses. I’m so happy that we were able to connect with Kieryn Wang from almost defaulting and collaborate on the launch of InclusiveBase which is a project that I was making over the past two years building a database of nominated and marginalized community-owned businesses in cannabis that people can more directly sign and support. She opened her list, which was the PoC Cannabis Directory over the summer. So, we just started to combine our list, combine our energies, and make this thing happen and it’s a thing and I’m excited about that. So, that launched a week before last and we will have more content coming out about that and featuring that super soon.
Jeff Boedges: Is that like a…
Mary Pryor: The third thing that we care about… Hm?
Jeff Boedges: The PoC is that like an official designation of companies? I think it sounds like a pretty cool one if it is.
Mary Pryor: Well, no, InclusiveBase is the name of the database. InclusiveBase is comprised of businesses that are owned by people of color, communities of color, and cannabis, mostly black, Latinic businesses. And we’re definitely doing more and more coming up in the near future to push people to share their business and submit because we need to know where these businesses are so that we can directly support them. I mean, you have major corporations that are bleeding themselves out right now in the cannabis industry because they don’t have the money or the profits that they expected. So, everyone from big to small is affected by lack of consumer awareness and dollars being spent.
Jeff Boedges: That brings up a good point and I think a lot of this recent degeneration of the industry, as far as the market values, the cap values of these public companies has been going down, as you know, a little bit of a bear market for them. But a lot of that seems to stem from the continuation of the Federal prohibition, making it very difficult for these companies to really make money because they really can’t scale. When you start looking at some of these state-by-state things, especially in New York and New Jersey who have delayed the legalization on a statewide basis of recreational cannabis, it seems to come down to this idea of social justice that there’s just not enough baked into these laws that basically is going to provide benefit again to these communities most impacted by the war on drugs. So, I’d like to know, I guess your thoughts on that and where do you see places like New York, New Jersey, and other places where that might be an issue? Go. How do you think those things are going to translate?
Mary Pryor: Well, New Jersey just killed the marijuana legislation bill so now people are going to have to vote on 2020 so that’s going to be fun.
Jeff Boedges: So, it’s going to be a public referendum. It will not be up to the state legislators?
Mary Pryor: No. They got it down on the 18th which is no longer a thing. New York is definitely going to go for another round of trying to pass this through legislatively. I hope they can. But I think that anti-cannabis against stigma is ridiculous from across the board, and it takes way more than just advocates talking about this. It takes everyday people. It takes you guys. It takes everyone being aware. You know, I mean I have doctors that have told me that I should just stop smoking cannabis because it doesn’t help when I know for a fact that I was in the hospital over 30 times between October 2012 to middle of 2015. And if it wasn’t for the fact that my mother was sadly slowly dying from complications related to MS and lupus, and my trips between Denver and Detroit getting her cannabis so that she would no longer be in pain because fentanyl and morphine and dilaudid wasn’t working in hospice and then I started using cannabis because I was dealing with that. On top of medication not working, I would be dead by now. I’m 100% very sure of that. But I have doctors now that are like, “Yeah, that doesn’t help you,” and I’m like, “Yeah, but first of all, morphine’s not working. So, let’s talk about that. And you’re not going to prescribe me opioids, which I don’t want, but you’re definitely not. So, Tylenol is not going to cut it.
Rick Kiley: When Tylenol doesn’t cut it.
Mary Pryor: Yeah. If you have chronic pain, that’s like Tic Tac of that, right? So, you know, I’m still healthy. Some of my doctors navigate stigma and I have to serve as a living testimony to this experience because I am able to work out every morning and lift weights and do CrossFit. I’m able to eat very, very mindfully of what’s going to be sensitive on my gut but I don’t know anyone in any Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation group that I go to or any Facebook group that I’m part of that does what I do with the cannabis.
Rick Kiley: Right. Interesting.
Mary Pryor: And I’m a member of over 15 different groups on literally on Facebook alone.
Rick Kiley: Crazy.
Mary Pryor: Yeah, like that there’s a lot to be said for the research that’s been done in Israel. And for the research that’s being done on this is actual medicine, which the US isn’t really doing still. So, you know, the scheduling is important. Decriminalizing is very important. But rolling this out so that everybody can have access and be able to start a business is so would be great. And I have crazy concerns now given the state of not to turn this into a conversation about what’s happening in our government. But things are not ideal to create pathways with this current leadership if you get what I’m trying to say…
Rick Kiley: Sure. Yeah. I smell what you’re cooking.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. So, where do you see the federal government? How do you see that rolling out, given the sort of let’s call it limitations of the current government in place?
Mary Pryor: I would encourage states to create equitable practices. I would encourage brands to create equitable packaging programs. Because for me, I hit the point where I will use my cultural capital and audience to encourage people to support where they need to support. Because now I’m very aware that every dollar does count in this case. So, if I know that a company is not inclusive, in terms of, you know, it’s one thing to just hire black security guard or Mexican budtenders. I’m talking about you need to have black and brown people on your board, black and brown people in executive leadership, like they need to have ownership. So, if I know companies aren’t doing that, it’s time to just call them out into not getting support then.
Rick Kiley: Right, right, right.
Jeff Boedges: So, what can our listeners do to get involved? How can they help with the cause of Cannaclusive?
Mary Pryor: I would say the best way that people can support what we care about, visiting InclusiveBase, encourage people to support businesses in InclusiveBase, continue conversations, talk to government leadership, encourage your own education around the plant, have those conversations with your mom or older, secretly give them CBD for their pain and then tell them what it is.
Rick Kiley: Is that literally like slip them a Mickey? Like that’s the phrase, slip them…
Mary Pryor: I’ll give you the story. It would suck but here’s context. So, one of my best friends, her family’s been very, very, very much so there for me given a lot of the things that I’ve gone through with parental loss and just being a kid that went to Michigan, went to University of Michigan, the best university in the world. I do not want to get into an argument about the Wolverines on this podcast.
Rick Kiley: No, no, no.
Mary Pryor: So, let’s keep it mutual. Great. Awesome. So, one of my friends has come to me now because she needs to use the plant for her pain issues and I have different friends of all walks of life and their parents who are talking to me from people I went to school with in high school to people I meet on the street. So, you know, what we know about this plant is shifting because people are finding, unfortunately, no other way to deal with their pain or their medical issues. And I don’t want that to be what it takes. I don’t want cannabis to be the thing that allows someone’s terminally ill parent to eat. I don’t mind it to be at that level of where somebody’s mind changes anymore. Does that make sense?
Rick Kiley: Yeah, I think that makes sense.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, absolutely.
Rick Kiley: So, listen, this podcast is called The Green Repeal for a reason. We try to get everybody to weigh in on this before we sign off, but where Jeff and I, we started working the alcohol beverage industry. We find a lot of relationship between alcohol prohibition and what’s currently happening in the cannabis world. And we’re of the mind that eventually cannabis is moving towards the point where it will be federally legal. That’s our POV. I’m curious as if you agree or disagree and…
Mary Pryor: Cannabis is going to go legal in 2020.
Rick Kiley: Federally?
Mary Pryor: That is my – federally.
Rick Kiley: Wow. That’s the most bullish prediction so far.
Mary Pryor: I bet everyone on this podcast $100 each.
Jeff Boedges: We’ve got one of those boards where you pick a date.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, yeah, we should do that. We should do that. No, actually, we have one other guy who thinks 2020 it might be.
Jeff Boedges: But you’re right. We should have that for the podcast then we can put it on the website.
Mary Pryor: I totally see that. I feel that.
Rick Kiley: I guess what makes you feel that given that you’re – do you think it would be with a new administration that comes in? Or you think it’s the current administration is going to do it?
Mary Pryor: Yeah. Unfortunately, yes.
Rick Kiley: Where are you getting your Intel?
Mary Pryor: My reasons why will require us to not be on this podcast and to have a separate conversation around this call.
Rick Kiley: Fair enough.
Mary Pryor: But I have solid reasons why.
Rick Kiley: All right. Well, you heard it here. We got another vote for 2020. Mary, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. We really enjoyed talking to you. You have a great one, okay?
Mary Pryor: Thank you so much for your energy and your time, guys.
Rick Kiley: Alright, cool. Talk to you soon. Bye.
Mary Pryor: Bye.