The failed War on Drugs has destroyed countless lives, with racist and classist policies that have torn communities of color apart at the seams.
Jeannette Horton, co-founder of Oregon’s NuLeaf Project, will absolutely not rest until our broken, oppressive, unbalanced system serves all of the communities it touches. As a burgeoning new sector, the Cannabis industry is the perfect place to focus on the monumental work of halting the destructive, regressive, and oppressive policies that still impact communities of color around the country, and repairing the damage done.
It’s a multifaceted mission, comprising political action, mentorship, and a rebalancing of the fiscal playing field.
Horton’s organization was a primary driver for the Oregon Cannabis Equity Act, HB3112, which seeks to establish a Cannabis Equity Board within the Governor’s office to provide equity oversight of the state’s Cannabis industry.
Among her many contributions, Horton sought to change the language around equity in order to specifically speak to race in the state’s efforts. The goal is to provide opportunity and representation for those most impacted by the War on Drugs – specifically to Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/x communities.
Notably, as part of her efforts, Horton was able to include the divestment of Cannabis taxes from funding the police.
“I wouldn’t let that shit go,” Horton said. “And it worked.”
Horton and NuLeaf also provide mentorship, grants and avenues for funding for equity entrepreneurs looking to grow and thrive in the Cannabis industry.
In order to get funding for these efforts, NuLeaf partners with companies in the space who recognize the need for change.
A shared mission
As with so many people in the Cannabis industry and beyond, the social revolution of 2020 – sparked by the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless people of color by public employees being paid to serve and protect them – inspired Wana to spring into action.
“That lit a fire underneath us,” Hodas said. “What do we do here? This is a crisis.”
A significant operator in the national edibles scene, the Wana team heard about Horton and NuLeaf’s work on HB3112.
That dedication to positive political action, and NuLeaf’s efforts to connect equity entrepreneurs with the funding they need to achieve their goals, was what brought Wana to the table with Horton and her organization.
“To give someone a license, that’s great, they have a license,” Hodas said. But without funding, the license is simply a document. That’s where Wana came in, providing a financial contribution to NuLeaf in order to assist in their efforts.
Wana also hired its first-ever Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Karla Rodriguez, to work on the collaboration with Horton and other company projects in the CSR realm.
The goal is to create robust collaborations that connect their company with the greater cause of equity and inclusion at a deeper level.
“Companies tend to operate in a vacuum,” Karla said. “You can throw money at it, you can throw donations at a cause. But working with NuLeaf … we can learn what needs to be addressed in each market.”
Spreading like roots
In addition to the work with Wana in Oregon, NuLeaf is branching out to take on other missions with collaborators around the nation, including a partnership with Ben’s Best Buds in Colorado, laser-focused on the funding piece of the equity puzzle.
The overall goal, Horton says, is to build a future with a healthy economic ecosystem rich in diversity and opportunity for systematically oppressed and underrepresented communities.
“Our mission is to build generational wealth for our communities,” she said. “This is not about just building Cannabis businesses. This is about repairing harm, and building it into these wealth opportunities for the Black community.”