Inside a Woman’s Efforts to Normalize Marijuana in Households and Achieve “Baked in Law” Fairness – –

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Inside a Woman’s Efforts to Normalize Marijuana in Households and Achieve “Baked in Law” Fairness – –


Shanel Lindsay began using cannabis at age 17 to treat a cyst, she said.

“I had just had it drained and I remember after I smoked and all the pain was gone,” Lindsay said. “And I didn’t really think about it at the time because it was just a one-off thing with a cyst. “

But cysts run in Lindsay’s family, she says. And when her son was born two years later and she developed a postpartum ovarian cyst, she sought medical marijuana. It was still illegal at the time, and even quality recreational marijuana was hard to come by, she said.

“Not all cannabis is created the same. The products you get on the streets are probably full of pesticides and just not of good quality, ”she said. “And I use it to treat my health problem. So for me it became very important to have cannabis that I could trust and know was organically grown.

Lindsay, 39, has spent the last decade growing cannabis and testing different strains and forms to determine what works best for medicinal and recreational purposes. These efforts led her to lead a Boston-based business that sells the nation’s first all-in-one cannabis cooker – a kitchen appliance designed to activate and prepare cannabis for cooking, melting, and brewing. She is one of the few black women to run a business in the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

There has been a rapid acceptance of marijuana in recent years, with many states legalizing its use. Recreational marijuana is legal for adults in 17 states and Washington, DC, and medical marijuana is legal in 36 states.

But in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, 81 percent of cannabis business owners or founders were white, 4 percent were black, and 6 percent were Hispanic, according to Marijuana Business Daily. A lack of access to capital, systemic economic racism, and laws prohibiting convicted offenders from joining the legal industry limit that can participate in the booming economy.

Lindsay has observed societal change and barriers to entry closely as a lawyer and business owner who fights for fairness in the industry, and as a person arrested for drug possession.

Lindsay was arrested in 2009 in Massachusetts after officers seized less than an ounce of marijuana, according to the police report. At the time, cannabis was illegal in the state, but marijuana offenses under an ounce did not carry criminal penalties, so Lindsay did not serve jail time.

“When I was arrested, my entire legal career passed before my eyes,” said Lindsay, who attended Northeastern University School of Law and majored in business, employment and insurance before continuing. full-time cannabis law.

“If I had been brought publicly before Stoughton District Court and brought to justice, I would have lost my job. I would have lost everything. At the time, Lindsay was working as a lawyer at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, PC, a Boston law firm.

Lindsay said she realized then that she wanted to change the stigma surrounding marijuana use and reduce personal and professional barriers for people who wanted to use it but feared reprisal at work or being arrested.

“There was a light bulb moment that happened,” Lindsay said. “I was just like, ‘How can I continue with this? I am a person who uses cannabis for all of these reasons. And how can my professional life be in conflict with what is going on in my personal life even though I have such great proficiency in both? It wasn’t something I was going to give up. It really helped me.

As more states move towards legalizing marijuana, Lindsay said laws often don’t include deleting records or releasing people in jail for marijuana-related arrests, and he doesn’t. there is no clear path for how they can reach the legal market.

“When legalization occurs, people who have been marginalized are completely pushed aside. It becomes a gambling game – there is a lot of money to be made here. And the forces that made the money, they know how to go to a city, to different states and make those processes happen, ”Lindsay said. “And so for us it’s about making sure that there really is a path for people who have been in the illicit market to actually be part of the real market. Because if that doesn’t happen, all that’s going to do is continue to criminalize ourselves and continue to have the same disparate impact while adding incredible insult to injury as other people are making millions out of it.

Lindsay’s efforts to make the industry fairer include working with a group of lawyers in 2015 to draft a voting initiative to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts. The measure was passed in 2016.

Adam Fine, a partner at Vicente Sederberg, a cannabis law firm, worked with Lindsay on the ballot initiative.

“The marijuana-related arrests and incarcerations and all the collateral consequences – Shanel really brought this issue to light in an extraordinarily effective way,” Fine said. “It was a big effort, and she was absolutely essential to the effort. The vision she had of the law and real boots on the pitch, speaking to the press, highlighting the different impacts that probation has caused and the damage it has caused.

Ardent’s FX, the all-in-one portable cannabis kitchen.Ardent

Lindsay launched Ardent in 2016. She sells two devices, NOVA and FX, which activate marijuana plants before they are brewed, cooked or cooked. The company calls the FX model the “Easy Bake Ardent”. Users can choose which strains or oils (THC, CBD, CBG, scents, flavors) to include for the result they want, including rolls, topicals, or edibles. In addition to cannabis, the devices can also cook soup, pasta and pastries.

The start-up capital for the business came from Lindsay’s mother, who invested her retirement savings of nearly $ 200,000. Lindsay secured other investments and got Ardent off the ground with a total of $ 500,000.

But outside investors have been few, she said.

“I’ve seen other companies literally get $ 6 million for a product idea that never went to market. And I’m like, damn it, can’t I ask you to give me some $ 100,000 to put up? Lindsay said. “It allows you to create an incredibly disjointed business. I no longer wait for investors. We’re just going to run this business as fair as possible, we’re going to be profitable from the start. My business has been profitable since the second year.

The devices have grown in popularity as more states legalize marijuana and the pandemic keeps people at home, Lindsay said. The company has made $ 15 million in revenue since launch, while cannabis was legal in just four states, she said.

“The growth we’ve seen has certainly paralleled the arrival of more states online,” she said. “We’re in line with both trends – more legalization across the country plus this idea of ​​pandemic-friendly items. I’m here in my office right now. I can make an edible from start to finish right here at my desk. The pandemic has underscored the need for this type of confidentiality. “

Ardent is available in all 50 states, including those where recreational and medicinal marijuana is not yet legal.

Despite the company’s success, Lindsay says her priority is to bring more people from under-represented groups into the multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.

She co-founded a non-profit organization called Equitable Opportunities Now to promote the fair application of existing and new laws. This year, nonprofit and local activists mounted a boycott and social media campaign against members of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association – a trade group representing physical businesses – to advocate for regulations aimed at bringing in historically underprivileged minorities. represented in the industry.

The regulation, implemented by the Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts’ governing body for marijuana, allows for an Uber Eats-style delivery service in which drivers collect products from companies and deliver them to customers, and it allows non-storefront recreational marijuana retailers make deliveries. . This delivery system is exclusively available to people deprived of their rights during the first three years. The Commonwealth Dispensary Association has filed a lawsuit to end the exclusivity, prompting at least 10 members to withdraw from the CDA within four days, according to the Boston Globe.

The resigning members include New England Treatment Access, the state’s largest marijuana company, and other well-known companies, such as In Good Health, Garden Remedies, Cultivate, Sira Naturals, and Mayflower Medicinals. The companies defend fairness in the industry and could not support an association that wanted to curb this, they said in statements.

The dispensary association dropped its lawsuit on Jan. 25: “It is in the best interests of the industry and our members to drop the lawsuit against the Cannabis Control Commission,” he said. association in a press release at the time. “We must all work together to achieve our many common goals, including increasing the participation of a diverse set of entrepreneurs in the industry.”

Lindsay said that when it comes to the future of cannabis, “Key # 1 is making sure fairness is built into the laws. This is extremely important because you cannot go after the law is drafted and then try to fight for a seat at the table.

“And you can see, even when it was written into law, every year now we have had to fight for every little piece to make sure it gets implemented,” she added. “So right now what I’m doing is continuing to use my voice to show the inequalities within the industry. “

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