Eaze, Vangst Start Equity Initiatives

Two big players in the cannabis industry unveil new programs aimed at inclusion.

If most of the politicians hoping to be selected as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee have made cannabis equity a priority, it’s probably time for some of the industry’s most notable companies to join the party as well.

To that end, cannabis delivery platform Eaze and cannabis recruiting platform Vangst have both begun separate programs in the past several weeks that aim to offer a helping hand to those most negatively affected by cannabis prohibition laws.

To clarify, equity as a concept is the idea that those who lost their freedom, families, or homes as a result of draconian pot policies established in the name of Nixon’s failed “War on Drugs” should be given priority access to the new legal market. City governments in Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are all currently spearheading equity programs with varying degrees of success.

While this column has focused heavily on equity applicants pursuing permits to open retail operations (as well as manufacturing, transportation, and cultivation), equity is also an important element of the workforce being employed by the cannabis industry.

Eaze has an established presence in the Bay Area — who could miss the billboards they often have lining the entrance to the Bay Bridge? They are also, technically speaking, not a cannabis company, as they serve as the interface that connects customers with cannabis dispensaries and delivery drivers. Regardless, on Sept. 24, the company unveiled Momentum, which is billed as a cannabis business accelerator.

The program will select 10 applicants to participate in a 10-week education program and receive a $50,000 grant toward their business.

Jen Lujan, Director of Social Impact for Eaze, says the company’s intention is to offer an opportunity for underrepresented individuals — including people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and anyone incarcerated or negatively impacted by pot prohibition — to take advantage of Eaze’s infrastructure and personnel to help launch their own business.

“This program really goes beyond just giving a check,” Lujan says. “We have over 40 employee volunteers who are going to be dedicating their time. We understand that many small entrepreneurs don’t have a full boutique of services like we do. They don’t have an HR team or a legal team or a marketing team. They’ll have access to all that and more during these ten weeks to use our ecosystem and business resources.”

Applicants will be selected by an advisory committee that includes investors, Make Green Go CEO Wanda Know, and Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins. Those interested in being considered have until Oct. 16 to submit an application, with finalists announced in early November.

“What we’re trying to create with Momentum is pretty much unlike anything else out there,” Lujan notes, “both because it brings funding and because it brings education and access to opportunities.”

Elsewhere, cannabis recruiting company Vangst has also recently started a social equity program of its own, which will essentially allow the company to help facilitate the hiring of qualified equity candidates in the cannabis industry. Launched on Sept. 21 at a Vangst Cannabis Career Fair in San Francisco, the company’s goal is to connect 5,000 qualified equity applicants in California with jobs in both the recreational and medical industries. They currently plan to expand the program to two more states by 2020.

Vangst CEO Karon Humiston tells SF Weekly that according to their data, a lot of networking got done at the expo.

“Through our post-event survey, we found over 80 percent of cannabis businesses made a hire or plan on setting up an interview with an attendee they met at the Career Fair,” Humiston says. “We also added attendees to our seasonal job platform, Vangst GIGS which connects job seekers with gigs such as harvesting, trimming, and packaging.”

Speaking specifically to Vangst’s interest in assisting equity applicants with finding work, Humiston notes that the timing was simply right.

“Local governments are finally starting to acknowledge the disparity caused by the War on Drugs and are beginning to implement social equity initiatives in the cannabis space,” Humiston says. “With the implementation of local government initiatives such as the Los Angeles Social Equity Program, we can now work with these entities to connect with social equity qualified applicants.”

Though caution is always warranted when corporate interests align themselves with restorative justice movements, the fine print checks out. Whether one considers it sufficient, the efforts being made by both Eaze and Vangst do stand to benefit numerous individuals who have the most legitimate claim to make some legal green from cannabis.

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