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Why Cannabis Equity Programs Matter

This guest blog post is written by Raeven Duckett, Founder of Community Gardens Delivery in Oakland, Kiva’s equity partner. Raeven is pictured here with her mother.
 
"I regularly smoke cannabis with my mom. To some it may seem strange (inappropriate?), but to us it’s no different from the bottles of wine we share on our day trips up to Napa. We both grew up in Oakland where connecting around this plant has been a celebrated part of our community since the 1960s. 
 
My mom first started smoking in high school, a little before her graduation in 1973, and just two years after Richard Nixon declared the ‘war on drugs’. The ‘war on drugs,’ has been well-documented as actually being a war on people of color, hippies and those protesting and advocating for equal rights. Its misguided policies funded overzealous federal drug agencies, enforced mandatory minimums on all drug offenders (even non-violent), and no-knock warrants. It warped public sentiment by criminalizing cannabis consumption and used the media as a tool to push out false propaganda. 
 
I’m a 90s kid. I remember listening to Too Short by pressing my face against the closed doors of my older cousin’s room. Cannabis was everywhere. In hip hop music, on television, and under my cousin’s bed. At the same time, outside of my house in the streets of Oakland, African-Americans represented 90% of cannabis arrests even though we were only less than 30% of the local population. 

I didn’t start smoking until college and I didn’t start smoking with my mom until a few years after I graduated, around 2014. Back then, we couldn’t have imagined that a delivery service service I would found just a few years later would receive the first cannabis social equity license, ever. 

That all started in 2017, when Oakland was the first city in the nation to put forth a cannabis equity ordinance. With the passage of Prop. 64, Oakland city officials recognized the likelihood that people of color would be left out of the legal cannabis industry unless specific laws were passed to guarantee their participation. This was evident from the prolific and flourishing California medical cannabis industry that featured mostly white faces when it came to ownership. 

Based on the parameters set forth by the Oakland equity ordinance, I started to construct the framework to open a delivery service, Community Gardens. I started Community Gardens with my husband and cousin and it remains family-owned and operated. Although the three of us collectively had ample experience on the consumer side when it came to cannabis, we lacked the business knowledge and connections to bring our business plan to full fruition. That was, until we met Kiva Confections at an equity mixer hosted by the city of Oakland.
 
Kiva was everything we could have dreamed of when it came to an equity incubator. Its founders’, Scott and Kristi, were local to the Bay Area and understood why cannabis social equity was essential to the legal industry. Since our first meeting, the Kiva executive team has worked diligently beside us to help us make our plan to open a delivery service that caters to our local community a reality. 

Kiva was there to support us as we taught community seniors how to use cannabis as a wellness tool, showed new and retired users the power of microdosing edibles, and assisted the homeless population by handing out bags of fresh socks, sanitary items, and food.  

Our partnership with Kiva shows that cannabis social equity programs are about a lot more than who gets a license. It’s about acknowledging the harmful effects the war on drugs and the mass incarceration has had on the black community nationally. Cannabis was a weapon used by the system to tear apart families, ruin futures and demonize everyday citizens. It’s going to take the government, industry-leading companies, and people from the most affected communities working together to even begin to right these wrongs. Cannabis social equity programs are an essential first step on this path to restorative justice."
 
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If you live in Northern California in or are adjacent to Oakland, you can purchase Kiva products via Community Gardens' delivery service.