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Photo courtesy Raina Casey

Raina Casey of Oregon Handlers Fund

In their brief time of operation, the OHF has already raised $4,676.31 and funded 16 worker permits

Raina Casey is no stranger to serving others. As a veteran, death doula, social justice advocate and Cannabis consultant, she centers her life‘s work around doing just that – while bringing a unique perspective from many battles. Her bright spirit and inspiring strength were tangible through the phone as we chatted about the struggle of losing a father to AIDS at age 11, growing up with a grieving mother, and surviving a list of life-threatening events.

Casey has traversed the trials of a stroke, abdominal aneurysm, brain surgery and CNS Lymphoma – experiences that she says left her with a severely diminished quality of life. “I was 30-years-old and had a son. He would spend his days watching me sleep under the horrible influence of these medications.” 

As she thought about her future and that of her son’s, she concluded, “This is not the quality of life that I want for myself. And it’s certainly not the quality of life that he deserves.”

That’s when Casey turned to Cannabis and saw a drastic change in her health. She became increasingly involved in the community and eventually, looked to make Cannabis a part of her professional path. But she faced yet another obstacle: the price of permits.

Casey had watched the industry thrive throughout the pandemic. As many folks looked for employment opportunities, it seemed one of the few to present them. But at a considerably higher cost than Oregon’s alcohol or food handlers permits, she noticed that the Marijuana Handlers Permit presented a unique problem. One that was painted into a much bigger picture.

In legalized states like Oregon, a white-washed market failed to find space for people of Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Casey contemplated this while watching the events following the murder of George Floyd and finally, something her aunt said sunk in: “You better do what you can while we’re still in style.” 

While many were calling for the support of Black-owned Cannabis businesses, Casey saw a “whole class of mostly Black people,” (well over a few thousand, according to her data) that were waiting to work in the industry. Permit fees were their only obstacle, so Casey decided to do something about it. She enlisted the expertise of friend and sales professional Casey O’Keefe, Rare Industries’ Christopher Schiel, and Realistic Consulting’s Justin Lipchitz to help operate the Oregon Handlers Fund.

The fund has one purpose: “to pay for Marijuana Worker Permits for Black and Non-Black People of Color. Because representation matters.”

In their brief time of operation, the OHF has already raised $4,676.31 and funded 16 worker permits, with many more lined up. The money comes from company and individual donations alike, although the fund hopes to see some extra assistance in the form of a grant.

While Casey says that the pandemic has complicated the OHF’s process, she’s excited to share plans of expansion. They’ve recently acquired a Portland office space where they hope to offer a wider array of employment services in the future. 

For more information, to make a donation, or apply for assistance, head to www.oregonhandlers.org.

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Oregon Leaf.

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