By Dave Fountinelle | email@example.com
The People’s Dispensary Fresno has been selected out of hundreds of applicants to be one of only ten cannabis businesses to receive a $50,000 grant from Eaze, the largest cannabis delivery marketplace in the country. The grant is part of “Momentum,” Eaze’s business accelerator program that supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) owners in underserved communities to build diversity in the marketplace. In addition to the grant, The People’s Dispensary will also participate in a 12-week program that includes “pitch meetings.” These meetings allow aspiring entrepreneurs in the industry to present business ideas to investors and the opportunity to work with Eaze on platform and menu development. As one of only ten businesses selected from over 250 applicants, it’s not just a big win for The People’s Dispensary, but Fresno as well.
“This type of relationship needs to continue,” says Cesar Casamayor, co-owner of The People’s Dispensary Fresno. “Too much of the approach to underserved communities has been about service and not enough focus on investment and access. This grant is a big step in the right direction towards hopefully changing that.’
Cesar points to the $2.6 million in “equity brand” sales in California as a clear indicator that consumers care what brands are on the shelves and what companies their money supports. Equity brands come from companies that are owned and operated through social equity programs.
The cannabis industry saw a massive boost in earnings during a lockdown-laden 2020. Sales topped $14.5 billion, a 50% increase from 2019. California alone generated over $4 billion in cannabis sales.
“Everyone needs a seat at the table,” says business partner Isaiah Garner. “We’ve always been left out of the discussion when it comes to things like building equity, ownership, investment, and so on. We have an opportunity to bring real social and economic equity to our communities and build the generational wealth to break the cycle of poverty and inequality.”
While the award from Eaze provides a significant investment of capital and opportunity, the road ahead is still a long one for The People’s Dispensary Fresno. Issues with licensing, escrow, and inconsistency from the City of Fresno slow the process and create obstacles for applicants under the social equity program that don’t exist for standard applicants.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of price gouging and predatory lending directed towards the social equity applicants. We have to jump through hoops that the other business applicants aren’t,” explains co-owner Gidai Maaza. “The city needs to do a better job of making the process fair for all applicants. There are a lot of big, out-of-state corporations who are getting the fast track while smaller, local businesses and social equity applicants like us are pushed to the back.”
Maaza says it could be as late as January 2022 before The People’s Dispensary can open for businesses.
Despite the obstacles in the road ahead, Cesar and Gidai remain committed to their advocacy work. They intend to use their platform to encourage others to get involved and bring social equity to the people and communities impacted most by the war on drugs.
“This is a big deal for us,” Cesar explains. “But this is just one part of a much larger vision. As more states legalize cannabis, we want to take our message to the national stage and help create a model for social equity across the country.”
Gidai adds, “we have an opportunity in this industry to create real change in our communities and own our work. Fresno can be an example to the rest of the country for how the social equity model can make that opportunity a reality.”