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Stoner Owner: Scheri Mathaya

Scheri Mathaya, a confident woman of color, wants to Put Color Back in Cannabis.

Cannabis equality is the sole mission of Scheri Mathaya’s company, Put Color Back in Cannabis. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the BIPOC individuals impacting this industry. Whether it be through collective achievements or cumulative struggles, Put Color Back in Cannabis aims to amplify those voices and facilitate community growth.  Scheri is one of those people herself, a confident woman of color who practices what her company preaches by paving the way for Cannabis equality. 

How did Put Color Back in Cannabis come to life?

The idea was born in 2019. I was a brand ambassador for Flow Kana, and one day out in the field, I, unfortunately, experienced a racist encounter. I was puzzled that this was an issue, especially because I moved from Minnesota, and here I was in California. I didn’t think I’d have to fight for placement in the industry because of my skin tone, but I quickly realized there was a bigger battle and I wasn’t the only one experiencing this. I knew I needed to bring more light to the BIPOC community and that’s when I built my brand.

Tell us more about Color Back in Cannabis.

We are a merch message brand – all of the merchandise we sell has a message or meaning behind it. You aren’t just purchasing an item, you’re joining a campaign and becoming a community advocate. You are openly saying you stand for this mission and you want to support it. We create awareness about various issues that minorities are struggling with. We address each issue individually so people can learn about it. 

We are all about highlighting minorities within the Cannabis space. There are so many of us doing different, incredible things – from being executives to distributors, cultivators, chefs, budtenders, artists and everyone in between. Our mission is to make sure people of color feel comfortable that they have a spot in this industry, a place that is already made for them, they shouldn’t have to fight for it. Our main goal is to put a spotlight on individuals and organizations that are trying to make the industry a safer space for people of color. 

What does equality in Cannabis mean to you?

It’s simple: equal opportunities for people of color, the exact same opportunities that white people get. Access to capital, resources, education. Being able to apply for the same jobs without having as many hurdles, or having the same hurdles. An equal playing field for all. Everyone needs to see color and recognize it, but we should not let color nor criminal records get in the way of accomplishing someone’s dream.

Where do you see inequality most?

I notice it on menus in retail shops, and a lack of color on the shelves. This is a strong indicator to me that people (consumers) aren’t doing research to learn what brands are equity-owned, and I blame this on a lack of consumer education. Not enough consumers are asking for BIPOC owned brands. Until there is a larger audience demanding these products, it will not inform buyers’ purchases. There are not enough minority-owned brands in general, so people can’t find them. There is less money, funding, education, and resources for people of color to be able to build their own brands. The biggest barrier is money needed for licenses, sourcing, packaging, etc – people of color just don’t have that access. Our mission is to make sure people of color feel comfortable that they have a spot in this industry

How have your personal experiences influenced the work you do?

My experiences motivate me to make changes for the generations that will come after me. That’s my whole thing. I can keep working hard to make positive changes for my generation so that I can experience the benefits, but I’m not going to be here forever, so I want to make a big enough difference so that those that come next don’t have to experience these same hurdles. 

What are the biggest hurdles to creating an industry that is equal to all?

Honestly, my personal opinion is unity. It isn’t there. We have a strong following, but following and reposting can only do so much. There needs to be a united front taking action. People need to speak out to dispensaries, purchase products from people of color – we need to be more conscious with our dollars. We need to be united in wanting something different. I think that is the biggest hurdle. We all talk about it, but how many of us are actually being about it? 

What’s your favorite way to consume Cannabis?

I really don’t discriminate, I like it all! I am forever an OG stoner, I love me some really potent, stanky, flower – the stankier the better. I consume a lot on the go and on outdoor adventures. I love Old Pal’s ready to roll flower, it’s easy on the go.

How can people get involved?

Speak, spend, support. Speak up, be open, be loud to dispensaries, budtenders, and delivery services about what you want to see on the shelves. Pick and choose where you spend your money. Spend on BIPOC owned brands, equity brands – and if you go to a service that refuses to support these brands – spend your money elsewhere.

Openly show support and solidarity for BIPOC/equity-owned brands. Support those delivery/retailers. Encourage yourself and your friends to get educated about what is happening within the Cannabis industry for the continuous development of equity and BIPOC brands/entrepreneurs. Show up at events! I actually host a monthly industry night and would love to see you all there. Follow @scheriruthmary and @putcolorbackincannabis to learn more! 

Photos by @JenniferSkog

This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue of California Leaf.

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