They say that pressure creates diamonds. Hard but beautiful substances created under the most extreme circumstances. That analogy seems fitting for PressureCo. Founded by Demarco Moorehead and Mohamed Yusuf, the company has set out on a mission to use its brand and influence to correct social inequalities in the Missouri medical cannabis space.
For Yusuf and Moorehead, the disparity in equitable cannabis and licensing is more than theoretical, the practicality of even applying for licenses escaped the duo – as foundational requirements established made it unrealistic for many in disenfranchised communities to even participate in the application process.
“We wanted to apply for licenses, but the barriers were just too high. The licensing fee is just the tip of the iceberg, Consultants, Property, legal costs, etc. Within the black community, we do not have access to the same generational wealth you see in other family dynamics. We would consider applying if there is another licensing round. We are currently working on policy considerations that could lower the bar allowing more minority entrepreneurs to enter the space,” Yusuf said.
Moorehead, who grew up in North St. Louis, and Yusuf who hails from South City, are the embodiment of what a local, equitable, inclusive program could look like.
“Demarco and I both grew up watching family members and friends being put away for using or selling cannabis. We want to help reshape the narrative around cannabis in communities of color,” Yusuf told Greenway. “We look to lead by example and show other black entrepreneurs that you too can find an opportunity within the industry.”
“This plant, which has been used as a tool of mass incarceration for over 80 years, is now raking in millions of dollars for businesses owned by people outside of communities of color, while our people still sit in prison for selling the same plant; this is double the injustice.”
“PressureCo. is an equitable cannabis brand focused on achieving inclusion and economic empowerment in the cannabis industry,” explained Yusuf. “Despite assertions about diversity and inclusion in the licensing process, black entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the industry and we look to help impact that inequity. Rather than simply magnify that inequality, we decided to take real action by forming a brand that is committed to change.”
Demarco Moorehead and Mohamed Yusuf | PressureCo. | Dmytro Baumann
That change comes in multiple forms, including a new scholarship program that will provide minorities with the tools they need to access the rapidly growing cannabis industry.
“While doing research, we found that the SLU cannabis program is a certificate program that offers 16 credit hours to students to help further their education inside or outside of the cannabis industry. We quickly realized that if we wanted to be more than just an idea, we needed to make a real impact,” Yusuf explained, “We secured 501c3 status for our non-profit Exit-Now and realized the scholarship program called Equity-Now.”
“SLU leadership has been very receptive and welcoming to us, and we are honored to have a scholarship set up in our name. This scholarship will pay the tuition for minority applicants to attend the cannabis science program at SLU, to create inclusion and systemic change within the industry. We want to lead with a purpose while using cannabis as a vehicle for change. Cannabis + Impact = PressureCo.”
In addition to creating opportunities for education, PressureCo. is looking for companies who are willing to move the industry forward.
“Through licensing agreements, we look to be a purpose-driven brand on the shelf, donating a portion of profits back to our non-profit and other organizations working to address the negative effects that the war on drugs has had on communities of color.”
“By working with like-minded cultivators and manufacturers here in the state, companies who believe in addressing social equity in the cannabis space in Missouri, we aim to give the consumer a conscious cannabis product. Cannabis with a purpose.”
“At the end of the day, a company’s values have to align with ours and then we can create change together. Whoever we partner with will have the opportunity to be on the right side of history.”
Currently, the industry and society stand at an impasse. There exists a dichotomy between the growth of industry and capitalism centered around cannabis. There is growing support for federal legalization, with a recent poll showing over 60% of American adults in favor, and the normalization of cannabis consumption – both for medical and recreational use. Martha Stewart has a cannabis brand and has partnered with Canopy Growth, while Snoop Dogg has become a mainstay on network television. Cannabis is no longer taboo and we have surpassed destigmatizing the plant in mainstream culture. But all of this has been achieved while many remain incarcerated for possession or sales. While that parralel alone should be cause for the industry to seek reform, the numbers speak volumes about the racial disparity that still exists in the application of rules and laws surrounding cannabis.
Per the NORML fact sheet, Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests, “African Americans are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at nearly four times the rates of whites, yet both ethnicities consume marijuana at roughly the same rates.”
A 2021 analysis of marijuana-related arrests in 2020 in New York City’s five boroughs reported that people of color comprised 94 percent of those arrested.
AMNY.com, People of color made up 94 percent of marijuana arrests by NYPD in 2020, data from Legal Aid says, 2021
A 2021 analysis from the Milwaukee County, Wisconsin District Attorney’s Office reported that Black Wisconsinites were 4.3 times more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted for having marijuana. The worst disparities in Wisconsin are in Ozaukee County, where Black people are 34.9 times more likely to be arrested and Manitowoc County, where Black people are 29.9 times more likely to be arrested.”
Wisconsin Public Radio, Report: Black Wisconsinites 4.3 Times More Likely To Be Convicted For Possession Of Marijuana, 2021
A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, concluded, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” Authors reported, “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”
American Civil Liberties Union, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, 2020
These findings were similar to the ACLU’s 2013 analysis, which had previously concluded, “[O]n average, a Black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates. Such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist in all regions of the country, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations. Indeed, in over 96% of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 2% of the residents are Black, Blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites for marijuana possession.”
American Civil Liberties Union, The War on Marijuana in Black and White, 2013
For Yusuf and PressureCo., those statistics point to the need for partners who are willing to push forward rather than pay lip service to issues.
“(We want companies) to put their money where their mouth is. Asking themselves, ‘If I’m profiting while someone is sitting in prison for the same thing, what can I do to create change?”
Yusuf continued, “They can partner with non-profits like Exit-Now to create more education in minority communities, creating more inclusion. They can hire and train a diverse staff that represents all cannabis consumers. They can reach down and uplift a minority-owned brand or hire a black-owned ancillary company for HVAC or whatever they might need.”
“We see PressureCo. as a brand that can keep pressure on the industry to address this glaring inequity. To us, this is more than selling cannabis, it is social reform and systemic change through this product that already has so many benefits,” Yusuf stated.
“Many states have attempted equity-specific licenses and most of them have missed the mark. It’s essential to set aside specific licenses around social equity applicants, outline and provide application support, create equity funds to assist in paying the high costs of lawyers and consultants, removing the real-estate requirements are a few to start. We do not claim to have all the answers but there needs to be an honest conversation around what ‘getting it right’ looks like.”
Also checkout Instagram.com/exitnow_.
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