Graham sees opportunity for both legacy operators and newcomers, but warns against opportunists.
Social Impact: Kassia Graham, Cannaclusive
Kassia Graham, a vocal advocate for diversity and equity in the cannabis industry, is using her platform to affect change.
As the founder of Cannaclusive, Graham noted that the organization is “dedicated to helping to raise the profile of BIPOC in cannabis, whether they are consumers or people within the industry.” She was awarded the 2023 Green Market Report Women’s Leadership Award for Social Impact.
Graham’s advocacy for the cannabis industry stems from a personal connection to the plant. Born into a Jamaican Rasta family, cannabis was deeply ingrained in her culture. Her personal relationship with the plant deepened when she was diagnosed with cancer and turned to cannabis for relief.
Cannaclusive was born out of Graham’s personal experiences and her keen observation of the industry’s lack of diversity. The organization’s mission is to ensure that the cannabis industry does not replicate the inequities found in other sectors.
With the recent legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York, opportunities for BIPOC communities to enter the industry have increased. However, Graham is mindful of the state’s history of racial disparity in drug law enforcement, especially under the Rockefeller drug laws. She emphasizes the need for equitable implementation of these new opportunities.
The legalization has opened up the landscape for both legacy operators and newcomers in the industry. However, Graham voiced concern over the rise of opportunistic ventures, expressing support for legacy operators who have served communities during the times of prohibition.
“I think it’s one thing to be a legacy operator and another thing to be an opportunist,” she said, underlining the crucial distinction between these two categories.
Graham is also a strong proponent of compliance in the cannabis industry. Despite the industry’s rapid growth, regulatory noncompliance can quickly undermine businesses, no matter how exceptional their branding may be.
“You can have the best branding in the world … but if you’re not compliant, that’s where you’re gonna get got,” she warned.
In her bid to bring more diversity to the industry, Graham uses art as a medium to tell stories. She believes that art can communicate the diverse experiences of cannabis consumers and foster a sense of empathy among viewers. Whether it’s film or music, or projects such as photosets depicting people of various ages, genders, colors, and complexions consuming cannabis in different situations.
For Graham, fostering authentic relationships within the cannabis industry is crucial. She notes that as consumers become more educated about cannabis, they value transparency and accountability from cannabis companies.
“Relationships are everything, just like any other industry,” she said.
For those eager to break into the cannabis industry, Graham emphasized the importance of diversity and adaptability. “Making sure that you diversify, who you’re working with… if you have more than one strength, you should try to play to as many as you reasonably can.”
Through her work with Cannaclusive, Graham is more than just a businesswoman; she is a trailblazer advocating for diversity and inclusivity in an industry still finding its feet. Her commitment to equitable representation, coupled with her personal journey with cannabis, have allowed her to continue to rise as an influential figure in the cannabis landscape. (Full Story)