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With the legalization of cannabis for adult use, New York has taken a strong approach to repairing past damage caused by the war on drugs and prohibition.
A brand helps advance these efforts by providing grants to nonprofits across the country that seek to help people who have been impacted by marijuana convictions.
Good Green, a brand of Green Thumb Industries, has already awarded more than $500,000 in grants to 501(c)3 organizations, including two in New York, said Jai Kensey, director of social impact at Green Thumb.
Kensey spoke to NY Cannabis Insider about the fund, who is eligible, and what they’ve accomplished so far.
Any nonprofit doing work related to the three pillars of Good Green is encouraged to apply for a grant by August 19.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NY Cannabis Insider: What inspired the launch of the Good Green brand?
Jai Kensey: For some background, Green Thumb Industries is a consumer packaged cannabis product company and retailer. We have approximately 77 dispensaries in 15 states and 17 cultivation facilities. And we really promote wellness through the power of cannabis, and one of the elements of that is the variety of brands that we have, and Good Green is one of those brands.
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Good Green is truly the brainchild of our CEO, Ben Kovler, who wanted to create a brand to reinvest in black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. So the brand was created very quickly and through it is really the vehicle that we’ve used to reinvest funds through unrestricted grants to nonprofits across the United States. So far, we’ve donated over $500,000 to more than eight organizations across the United States, and these organizations are working in three key areas of the Good Green pillars, which are radiation, employment, and education. .
How is Good Green able to fund its grant program?
Good Green is a brand that we sell in our dispensaries and that cannabis funding is reinvested in black and brown communities through a branded grant program. The two go together, the good and the green.
It’s nice that we can reinvest the funds of our brand that are sold in our dispensaries. So that was the key thing for us – to make sure we were able to provide resources. I always talk about how at Green Thumb it’s our job to provide resources and platforms to help amplify the voices of the nonprofits that are out there in the trenches doing the heavy lifting. to support the communities in which they serve. So it was a great opportunity for us to find a way to right the wrongs of the war on drugs. But that’s just one way to leverage a brand we sell at our RISE dispensaries to help communities of color, whether they’re nonprofits or individuals and communities. who support those in need.
What was the thought process behind developing the three pillars? education, employment and radiation?
The three pillars of Good Green are essential and essential. I’m thinking of my nephew right now who has two cannabis-related crimes. If his file could be expunged, it would help him enormously to be able to live fully free within society, to be able to obtain loans for his studies and to be able to obtain housing and a job. These are the main obstacles faced by people convicted of cannabis in terms of freedom of action within society, like everyone else. I mean, we just learned that Britney Griner got nine years in prison for cannabis in Russia. So there are so many barriers and the stigma that comes with that.
The question of employment therefore arises because it is difficult to try to find a job after being released from prison. People who come out of prison, more often than not, are literally released with nothing. And I’m thinking of the organizations that we’ve supported through our Good Green grant, like Why Not Prosper, where they’re literally going to help women who have been released from prison get ID, get birth certificates, get to find accommodation, to find a job, because when you are released and reintegrated into society, you are simply pushed there, hoping to survive after spending a few years in prison. And so it’s imperative that these organizations have the resources they need to do the work that they do to support people.
Education focuses on adult education and finding ways to provide reintegration services. Another organization we awarded a $60,000 grant through the Good Green program is Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, where they provide rehabilitation services for people who have served time in prison to provide them with workforce development training. The Greyston Foundation in New York, an amazing organization, also offers workforce development and offers a program for people over 50. And so you think of people who have spent decades in prison and learned to function in this space, and then they’re released into society and it’s like, who’s there to support them?
Last year we gave a grant to the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers and they have done a wonderful job in terms of full service, whether it’s the training within their bakery that they have to provide to the on-site workforce, or their social services, ensuring that their approach is very comprehensive to know that the individual continues to stay within their workforce and grow in that space.
Were there other pillars Good Green was considering?
It’s interesting that you say that because many of these organizations that we support have several pillars within their own missions that touch on other areas.
A Philadelphia organization, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, provides disbarment services, free legal services, and other opportunities to talk to lawyers. Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change here in Chicago has an amazing mental health program to support people who have come out of prison and are reintegrating back into society. People don’t really talk about mental health when it comes to incarceration, when it comes to the war on drugs and the need for more mental health services for people struggling with anxiety and depression.
So they make it really well rounded.
Why does Good Green only focus on nonprofits?
Green Thumb is a company that has a multi-pronged approach to community outreach through our social impact department. So through the grant, the focus is on supporting this unrestricted funding for nonprofit organizations, because we understand how important unrestricted funding is. And the goal is to make sure that we give people the funding they need to use it, the way they need it, and not the way we want them to use it. However, they need it to power their mission. We have other programs, like our Licensing Education Assistance Program, which supports entrepreneurs who wish to apply for a state-issued social equity license. We offer webinars to leverage the wealth of knowledge we have under our roof, whether in accounting, HR, operations, cultivation, to provide support and education to those interested in getting started in the cannabis industry. .
What is a challenge that Good Green has faced and/or continues to face?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge, but I feel like a lot of us in the cannabis industry come across nonprofits that aren’t able to get cannabis funding because it’s still federally illegal. So once cannabis is federally legal, it will make things much easier. Some nonprofits receive federal funding and fear losing that funding by accepting donations from a cannabis company. So that’s probably one of the biggest challenges, but we’ve been able to overcome that and work with some amazing organizations to support them in their endeavors.
What is the lasting impact you always see every time a grant is awarded to an organization?
It’s that piece of radiation. I’ve seen what it’s like to look someone in the eye; my nephew who has committed cannabis crimes, who is constantly being told “no” in terms of employment or hiring, and then they find out he has a criminal record and then he is released. It’s disappointing. So working with organizations like Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and being able to give them a $75,000 grant and hearing the stories of the hundreds of people they’re helping through their erasure efforts…it just gives me a level of joy I can’t explain. I know these people and their family members are so happy to be able to operate freely in society, to be able to just get a job, to be able to do the things that everyone is able to do, especially after paying your debt. So we really want organizations in these three key areas to apply for this grant, because it is truly life changing.
What does the application process look like?
I just worked in the nonprofit space for nearly a decade before coming to Green Thumb, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible. If there is a non-profit organization that focuses on the three Good Green pillars – education, radiation and employment – please apply. We are committed to giving at least up to $1.3 million by the end of the year, so there are funds available. Applications are open now and close August 19. So we would really like organizations to apply. The application is very simple. And as long as you demonstrate in this application how you plan to use the funding and the work you do, it shouldn’t be difficult at all.