“The Black Experience in Cannabis” Event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Interview with Kia L. Jackson, CEO of W.O.M.M.A.N, LLC, by Michael Harlow, Tax Partner, CohnReznick
Over the past two decades, cannabis legalization has remained a divisive topic. This fall, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) presented “The Black Experience in Cannabis”, highlighting people of color’s narrative in cannabis with panels comprised of industry experts, scientists, physicians, politicians, and advocacy professionals to provide attendees with a deeper understanding of the cannabis industry.
Michael Harlow, Tax Partner – CohnReznick, was a keynote speaker discussing the 280E Bill as well as regulatory barriers to entry in various cannabis markets. Following the event, Harlow sat down to interview Kia L. Jackson, CEO of W.O.M.M.A.N, LLC (Word of Mouth Marketing and Networking) and Founder of “The Black Experience in Cannabis.”
MH: What inspired you to do a cannabis section at the CBC Annual Legislative Conference?
KJ: In 2017, I produced an unofficial CBC ALC session entitled “Disrupt the Divide” which aimed to identify the problem and solution for African-Americans wishing to enter the cannabis industry. Fortunately, great relationships were established between the panelists and exhibitors who returned to make this event a success in 2018 as an official CBC ALC third-party event held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The goal was to convene a targeted audience and have an honest discussion about cannabis as a medicinal plant that would include legislators from the U.S. as well as international countries.
MH: Did you get any pushback?
KJ: Cannabis is a divisive issue among people of color. First, there is a lack of information around cannabis, and there is a fear of being targeted that arises from the ongoing War on Drugs. It is critical to have conversations with people who do push back,and give them facts and supportive resources to help them embrace a changing culture. It all goes back to education. It began with building a background of facts on the history of cannabis in the U.S. The audience needed to understand how and why cannabis ended up as a Schedule I Narcotic. After establishing this, other discussion topics focused on creating a narrative for people of color in cannabis. This gave context to why the black community is so cautious about coming out of the cannabis closet.
MH: What motivated your focus on cannabis as medicine?
KI: When we think of the plant as a medicine, we can reframe the discussion as a biological and human right to medicate. Polling data shows that the public is supportive of cannabis as medicine, but education is still needed. For a long time, marijuana was an illegal drug, and once it became legalized by some states, the scientific term “cannabis” emerged to help change marijuana’s perception.
People are more likely to invest in things that impact them directly. When we begin to talk about the medicinal components of an endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid health advantages, people are more likely to listen in and care because they know it can directly affect their individual own health. Healthy living and environmental sustainability are extremely popular globally.
The ALC is a premier public policy conference that brings together almost 9,000 people to explore issues affecting African-Americans and black communities around the world.
As a firm, CohnReznick believes our clients benefit from our best ideas when we maintain an inclusive, multidimensional firm culture. Our diverse viewpoints will help drive growth, innovation, and value for your company. The unique beliefs, backgrounds, ways of thinking, talents, and capabilities of our employees are strategic assets to the firm and our clients. As such, we were honored to participate in “The Black Experience in Cannabis”.
This has been prepared for informational purposes, is general guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without first obtaining professional advice specific to, among other things, your individual facts, circumstances and jurisdiction. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and CohnReznick LLP, its partners, employees and agents accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.
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