Transforming Lives Through Cannabis
One reason we’re so excited to enter the Massachusetts market is the incredible efforts being made across the state to leverage the cannabis industry to transform the lives of people unjustly impacted by the racist war on Drugs.
The woman-owned dispensary Rebelle provides a fantastic example of incorporating equity efforts into a cannabis business.
They explain, “Rebelle was founded by real people who were moved by the unjustifiable harms placed on our society by the war on drugs. Our mission is to create a positive impact in the entire Massachusetts community by hiring 75% of our workforce from disenfranchised populations, offering internships and positions to adjudicated young men and women affected by cannabis prohibition, and by giving back to the community with our profits.
“We believe cannabis can be the answer to the change we all need. We believe we can be the tide that raises all boats. Rebelle is hiring a workforce lost to a war on drugs, we’re building our grow facility in an abandoned gun factory and our founder is a woman. Our very heartbeat is rebellion for justice.”
Through their parent company Community Growth Partners (CGP), they use cannabis to empower local communities. Rebelle founder Charlotte Hanna (pictured at right with other members of the CGP leadership team) works with the nonprofit Roca to support their mission to disrupt mass incarceration, poverty, and racism.
1906 is proud to be one of Rebelle’s retail partners and we share some of a conversation we had with CGP leadership on social justice in the cannabis business, building a “chill vibe,” and the importance of consumer education.
1906: What is the cannabis industry’s responsibility to incorporate equity in its business practices?
CGP: The cannabis industry innately has a responsibility to behave in an especially equitable manner, given that it is an industry emerging in defiance of existing policy that aims to punish. The damage that has been done across our country and the world due to unjust cannabis legislation is vast, especially when looking specifically at the heightened proportion of damage done to communities of color. So to truly be a cannabis company requires equitable business practices above and beyond other industries. Every person should have equal access to cannabis and to engage in this industry that we are so lucky to be a part of. In our eyes there is no way to truly be a cannabis company that does not operate in an equitable fashion because it is a core building block of the identity of the industry, and those that do not embody this are really just “companies which sell cannabis.”
Tell us about your relationship with Roca.
Roca has been a partner of ours from the very beginning and has been instrumental to our launch in several ways. Our CEO, Charlotte Hanna, is heavily focused on utilizing our unique position in this industry to maximize social equity within it. Roca allows us to do that in an effective way, by contributing 3% of our profits to them we know that we are helping to fund real change within the cannabis industry. We also contracted their workers for demolition and construction work being done on our future grow site. We also have made efforts to assist in job placement for their members, which is something that has benefited us greatly as the addition we have already made to our team through Roca has been such an amazing personality and energy...so much so that we plan to continue using them to fill our next openings.
Can you share any more details about the ROCA members who have found permanent work at Rebelle?
Aneuris has shown an incredible ability to perform as a self-starter since he joined us. He came on board without any specific knowledge or experience of the industry yet learned at a rapid pace thanks to his dedication and work ethic, which have never faltered. Aneuris has shown a great deal of comfortability with clientele, demonstrating an intuitive grasp of customer service. He has undoubtedly become one of the most thorough members of our sales team, with impeccable morale to boot. It is people like Aneuris who drive our excitement to create further opportunity for career development, hopefully with the continued support of Roca.
Talk about the inspiration for your store and the retail experience…what you call the “chill vibe.”
Each member of our staff has a genuine and personal relationship with cannabis that has led not only to a “chill vibe” of honest and open personalities, but also to a hard-earned knowledge and passion for everything about the plant. This directly translates to being able to build excitement for our customers and provide a unique experience, because these are the things we are excited about.
As far as the inspiration for our store, it very much came from the desire to have a cannabis dispensary that was truly experiential. We want our store to feel exciting to visit, to be the destination, and not to be a stop on your way to somewhere else. We think that there is so much more to offer beyond a transaction when getting your cannabis. There is the possibility to commune on many levels with all of the people we are able to interact with. Even more importantly, there is the opportunity to educate and inform, which we feel is an essential duty of the members of the cannabis community.
What do you think is the biggest misconception around cannabis in 2021?
Our industry by nature is prone to stigmas and misconceptions. However, possibly the most untrue is that everybody who uses cannabis is innately a stoner-type, and moreover, the negative connotations surrounding that. There is no end to the motivational and creative uses for cannabis that many successful people in the world continue to make a part of their daily lives, and the stigma that all users are smoked-out or lazy is essential to break this coming year. The normalization and social acceptance of everything cannabis has to offer is absolutely essential to bringing its potential for good to wider and more effective applications in the future.
Why is education for staff and consumers so important to you at Rebelle?
Cannabis is an ever-changing industry where new skills and knowledge are acquired each day. So to make sure we continually stay on the forefront of this rapidly changing industry we are constantly researching and conversing on the newest science, trends, and culture of cannabis. This includes not just our staff, but also encompasses our responsibility to educate our clientele so that they may enjoy their own experiences to the fullest potential. We strive to have the best and most accurate knowledge possible, because if we have it, then so can our customers. Subsequently, if they have this knowledge then they will be able to make the choices that are most beneficial for them.
How do you see your clientele changing a year from now?
With our continued effort to educate and spread factual information around cannabis, we believe we will see a more open and accepting clientele that is more informed. However gradual these changes may be, we have already begun to see a shift in customers who are here for far more than their cannabis, they are here for an expansive conversation and to be part of this wonderful community. This is something that has been happening for some time as more and more scientific findings surrounding cannabis come to light. With the rapid expansion of legalization in the U.S. and with more open-mindedness than ever before, we believe that now is perfect timing for a rapid expansion of the informed consumer.
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