The REVOLT Summit in Los Angeles may be over, but the attendees are still talking about the three-day event. Industry leaders and professionals were asked by Diddy to come together for various discussions about music, social media, technology, and issues that impact hip hop culture. On Day Two of the Summit, the cannabis industry was a hot topic as Ted Chung, entrepreneur and business partner of Snoop Dogg, moderated a panel that featured the rapper along with community activist and restaurateur Karim Webb; David Elian, the CEO of Lowell Farms; and Jason White, the CMO of Select & Cura, Inc who is also the former EVP, Global Head of Marketing for Beats By Dre.
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Everyone on the panel wanted listeners to understand that this is a multi-billion dollar industry where people of color are widely underrepresented in business. The panel urged people, even those with a minor interest, to educate themselves, not only to acquire knowledge for their own benefit but to let others know that the cannabis industry isn’t some shady enterprise.
“You can’t leverage your cultural competency to be self-determined for what we see in our community, and I think cannabis is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a brand new industry,” Karim said. Sure, cannabis has been around since the beginning of time, but he added “the legalization and regulation of it in this country…there is a finite time and the time is now for us to unite around what fairness looks like so we can get as big a piece of the pie as possible.”
Snoop was highly influential in the merging of cannabis culture with hip hop, and he was asked if that was all apart of the plan in the early days of his career. “At that time, sh*t, we was just being kids,” Snoop said. They were just trying to do something that they believed was original. The rapper said that he and his crew were always interested in the cannabis culture. “Whether it was Cheech and Chong, whether it was Bob Marley…however it was presented to us, we were always infatuated with it,” he added. Marijuana was something that shifted their focus because it was giving them a “zone of peacefulness.” Snoop said he wanted to do something to let people know that cannabis was a cause he was getting behind, so “I went to the swapmeet, bought me a hat, and I told the lady to put a leaf on it…years later we looked back it and I was actually branding the chronic leaf before I knew about branding. Before I knew what branding was.”
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Following his 17-year career in the NBA playing for teams including the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and Orlando Magic, Al Harrington began to focus on the cannabis industry. He began with extracts and expanded into edibles and non-psychoactive cannabinoid products. During the chat on the panel, Harrington spoke about his company Viola Extracts, an organization he named after his grandmother who suffered from glaucoma and diabetes.
Harrington shared the story of how his grandmother was in pain and he convinced her to use cannabis just once to see if it would help. After saying no to “the reefer,” she gave in and he left her alone for about an hour and a half while he took a nap. He said he didn’t know what to expect when he found her. “I wanted to make sure she wasn’t like, climbing the walls,” he said with a smile. “The door was closed [so] I knocked on the door. I’m smirking ’cause I don’t know what to expect, but I was like, ‘Grandma, how are you feeling?’ She turned around and she was crying. Tears. She was like, ‘I’m healed! I haven’t been able to read the words of my Bible in over three years.'”
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images – Al Harrington & Karim Webb
The group repeatedly spoke about the decriminalization of marijuana and the judicial infrastructure that’s been set in place to keep marginalized communities either at bay or in prison. “You got cocaine,” Snoop stated. “White lady on the freeway with cocaine? Slap on the wrist, get out. Black man with twenty dollars worth of crack? Third strike. He in jail for life. Same sh*t.” Even though marijuana is legal in some states, communities in each particular state can opt-out. “If it’s legalized, you shouldn’t be penalized for it,” the rapper added.
The men on the panel also shared that hiring former convicts was a regular practice for their businesses, especially Jason and David. Snoop added that he realized that he could “use my skills as a crack dealer as a real, legitamized drug dealer. This should be a [message] to everybody from the ‘hood that once had a past that’s been corrected, that’s been fixed…you should have the ability to do the same thing as Snoop Dogg is doing. So, I speak to all the homies that’s locked up for weed, all the homies that’s trying to get in the game: If I make it, they gon’ make it.”