When Desiree Ivey and Cherron Perry-Thomas, founders of the Diasporic Alliance For Cannabis Opportunities (DACO), attended a cannabis conference in Las Vegas, they quickly realized there were not many others who looked like them. Instead of being discouraged, the two conceptualized change and decided to create their own. From this, the 2018 Cannabis Opportunity Conference was born.

The conference, which took place Oct. 19-20 at the Temple University Medical Center in Philadelphia, centered around conversations on cannabis options for wellness, social justice and economic empowerment. Free to the public, conference goers heard from cannabis experts and advocates, like Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“The legal cannabis industry is rapidly growing […], but less than 20 percent of all business owners and employees are non-white,” Perry-Thomas said in a press release sent to Blavity. “We at DACO want to change that by reducing the stigma around cannabis and introduce the limitless opportunities to marginalized communities.”

Thomas-Perry and Ivey argue that opportunity is key, as cannabis-related businesses are projected to prosper. The marijuana industry is expected to generate around $40 billion in economic impact by 2021, and with the right education and accessibility of resources, minorities have a lot to gain by participating.

“[We] have to advocate for access, equity and policy reform to be included in this industry,” Thomas-Perry told Blavity. “Without the information, we don’t know what to ask for, where to go or what to do. DACO wants to change this by creating alliances throughout the diaspora for us to learn how we can have a shared value in the legalized cannabis sector.”

Before diving into the cannabis industry, the two conference coordinators want to ensure that black entrepreneurs know the laws, especially considering the current legal climate.

“Policy does not favor Black and Brown communities,” Thomas-Perry said. “Laws that have historically locked us up are the same laws that are keeping us out of the industry.”

Both women have years of experience with medical marijuana. Perry-Thomas is the CEO of Green Dandelion Marketing, which helps brands find homes within major natural retail shops. Likewise, Ivey created the Medicinally Jointed, an alternative wellness center where patients can safely speak with qualified health professionals about natural, holistic treatment options. The space hits close to home for Ivey who, after being diagnosed with Lupus, uses these medicinal alternatives to manage the pain resulting from this chronic autoimmune illness. Together, they hope to change the narrative surrounding cannabis.


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