Over the past few weeks, our team has had the privilege of participating in a number of in-person and virtual cannabis events to deepen our relationships with other tri-state canna entrepreneurs particularly connecting with other Black and POC potential operators.
First, it has been encouraging to speak with people just as motivated as we are and the resounding phrase that has been repeated over and over has been collaboration over competition. Yes, we are all aware that we might be in direct competition with each other once our businesses are open but we are in a much stronger and adaptable position when we share information, and advocate for the needs of all as we await future regulatory guidance from New York’s Office of Cannabis Management.
A recent “Changing Legacies” event that we cosponsored is a tangible way for our team to partner and learn from those most impacted by the racist “War on Drugs” and cycles of incarceration that have kept legacy entrepreneurs from capitalizing off their know how and experience with cannabis. The Stash Queens will continue to pursue event and partnership opportunities that dismantle exclusionary practices and affirm the right for everyone to have a seat at the table.
Especially as potential social equity applicants, there is strength in numbers and voice to help ensure that New York State does not follow in the footsteps other major canna municipalities that have made the hurdles to get to market for social applicants more challenging.
New York State has the benefit of seeing what has gone wrong and going down a different path. Already, we are seeing the creeping influx of MSO’s (multi-state operators) setting a foothold in New York City real estate, newer and existing entrepeneurs taking advantage of current legal grey areas to essentially operating quasi recreational dispensaries and entertainment spaces. Cant knock the hustle but its clear that advocating in partnership with others and sharing collective information throughout the business journey will help not just Stash Queens but those standing beside and coming up behind us.
Another important lesson came from a recent On The Revel event that featured Council Member Carlina Rivera and the Committee Chairs of two influential Manhattan Community Boards. Both Community Board leaders shared valuable insight but I was particularly struck by the words of Domingo Estevez who represents Manhattan Community Board 12 in Washington Heights and Inwood. Mr. Estevez and other community advocates in the Heights like the Uptown Cannabis Coalition have been leading the important and necessary conversations to ensure parity for their communities.
I was struck more though with an important reminder for our team and for others as the mad dash begins for businesses setting up shop. The lesson was to listen more than speak which in the case of a lot of us venturing even into familiar communities must be central to any community outreach and engagement.
It means not assuming ANYTHING and asking community members about existing conditions and developing ways to support programs already created by community power.
As Stash Queens continues our building work, we will continue to partner, learn and listen in order to be responsible in our approach and to make lasting connections that will be carried through from the beginning to our eventual landing place of a retail dispensary.