EXCLUSIVE: How To Disrupt The Patient-To-Prisoner Pipeline? Thoughts From First Black Woman To Win An MMJ License

How can we create equity in cannabis? 

This and many other important questions concerning the marijuana industry were tackled by Chanda Macias, CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare during a panel discussion at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference. Macias is also known to the industry as the first Black woman to receive a medical marijuana license and the first to operate in multiple states. 

The panel, moderated by Sammi Toorish, VP of Global Investments at Arcadian Capital, also focused on disrupting the patient-to-prisoner pipeline. Toorish reminded the packed room at the Fontainebleau Miami Hotel that creating equity in cannabis starts with acknowledging and reiterating that historically there has not been equity, certainly from a political perspective. She noted that inequity has trickled into the industry's economics and persists today.

Macias’ Experience 

Macias opened up about her personal experience of inequality in the industry. After having earned a Ph.D. in prostate cancer research, she soon realized that marijuana could treat cancer symptoms. Though when she asked her mentor about it why they were not studying it, she was told “because you’ll get locked up, you’re Black."

This was enough for Macias to press the pause button on her plans to further pursue cannabis, for quite some time. But when she heard about the possibility of opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington DC, she didn’t hesitate to apply, despite friends and colleagues telling her she didn't stand a chance.

 “I applied as a non-equity applicant, as social equity at that time didn't exist. And, I won on my own merit,” Macias said. 

This is when she realized that less than 4% of cannabis operations were owned by women, African Americans and people of color. 

Disrupting The Patient-To-Prisoner Pipeline

While toughening up in order to survive in the cannabis space, Macias discovered several ways to disrupt the patient-to-prisoner pipeline like changing policy procedures and alleviating regulatory hurdles. 

“What I realized most is that they don't really want to change it. It [patient to prisoner pipeline] is a $40 billion industry. It's generating more money than cannabis today. Why would you want to disrupt the pipeline that is actually lucrative for those in control,” Macias said, highlighting one of the biggest obstacles towards breaking the pipeline.  

She talks about patients going to prison over medical marijuana and what’s worse, Macias also met mothers who were treating their children for epilepsy and ended up going to prison

“Putting a policy or a procedure or a law in between the healthcare of my child should be illegal, she said.  

Macias soon became aware of the fact that she was also part of the problem by not standing up when she knew her voice could provide leadership. 

“We just want equality,” and to achieve it “we have to support each other in those endeavors by changing legislation, so that it impacts and gives us the ability to be a part of the industry,” Macias highlighted.

In the end, she advised those who want to join the booming marijuana space to start where they are, with skills they already have and to build a team they can truly trust.

“A team is like a marriage. If it breaks you lose everything,” Macias concluded. 

Photo: Courtesy of Hasan Almasi on Unsplash



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Posted In: Arcadian CapitalBenzinga Cannabis Capital ConferenceCCCCCC22Chanda MaciasIlera Holistic HealthcareSammi ToorishCannabisESGNewsPoliticsEventsExclusivesMarketsGeneral