This year, Canndescent’s leadership decided to address cannabis incarceration and its disproportionate effects on black and brown people. To determine how best to do that, the company looked within.
Adrian Sedlin, founder and CEO of the California cultivator, said the May 25 death of George Floyd was “a flashpoint” to him and the business, as it was to many people, of the terrors of racial injustice and police brutality. Individuals, businesses and organizations in the cannabis industry have acknowledged that they benefit from legalization while minorities continue to be disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana convictions.
“We had a very long internal conversation, and sometimes there were tears in the room, to be honest, where people want[ed] us to act faster and [felt] like we have to do something,” Sedlin recalled to Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
At Canndescent, that flashpoint became a call to #sparkchange. The company’s core values, such as “excellence,” “gratitude” and “boldness” have enabled it to become a formidable player in the legal cannabis market. In 2020, they’ve led the company to launch Justice Joints, a preroll collaboration with the Last Prisoner Project (LPP). All profits from the product line of sativa, indica and hybrid prerolls will fund LPP’s efforts of prisoner release, reentry into society and criminal record expungement.
With an internal “on-shelf” date of Oct. 27, Sedlin said Canndescent’s distribution team may start transporting Justice Joints to California dispensaries as soon as Oct. 28. About 30 to 40 dispensaries will begin selling the product in early- or mid-November. Six to nine months afterward, Sedlin anticipates selling the product to approximately 200 stores.
Justice Joints’ text-heavy packaging will educate and remind consumers—and dispensary managers and employees—that there are 40,000 people incarcerated for charges related to cannabis, that 10% of cannabis business owners are people of color and that people are arrested for cannabis in the U.S. “every 48 seconds.”
Not only did the company’s decision to launch Justice Joints align with its core values, but also its mission to “empower consumers to turn down the noise, unlock the moment and transform their lives with exceptional cannabis products,” as Sedlin (and the business’s website, similarly) put it.
“Our job is to build solutions and turn down the noise, and for us, this was a way to do it,” he said. “This was a way for us to do something really constructive that’s lasting and meaningful. So that was the standard.” If Canndescent was to reduce people’s anxieties rather than inflame them, giving a one-time donation or smaller portions of proceeds wouldn’t be enough. In addition, the company wanted to continually express its gratitude to the people who led the way for the cannabis industry, including those who have been imprisoned.
Over the summer of 2020, Sedlin said he reached out to the Last Prisoner Project founder Steve DeAngelo (also the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Harborside) about working together.
“We have three long-term gifting platforms in mind for Justice Joints,” Sedlin said. “But expungement, release and reentry for nonviolent cannabis prisoners was the first of the three. And Steve and the Last Prisoner Project became the logical next call.” (Sedlin said the other two platforms would be working with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to establish curricula to encourage graduates to enter the cannabis industry, and issuing grants to increase the equity of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the industry.)
Registered as a 501(c)(3) in 2019, the Last Prisoner Project has been growing since. It works in different capacities with cannabis businesses across the U.S., as well as musicians such as Stephen and Damian Marley and Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany, and started a letter-writing program.
Addressing the partnership with Canndescent in a statement provided to CBT and CD, Mary Bailey, managing director of LPP, said:
“Last Prisoner Project is thrilled about the launch of Justice Joints and we simply can’t thank Canndescent enough for the support. Not only will Justice Joints raise much needed funding to support criminal justice reform in the cannabis space, but it also brings awareness to consumers about this important issue. Most Americans don’t realize that there are still over 40,000 people incarcerated for cannabis in our country.”
Prior to Justice Joints, Canndescent ran three brands: Candescent, goodbrands and Baker’s Cannabis Co., Sedlin said. A fourth made sense with Justice Joints because employees would knowingly be spending a portion of their time serving the cause, and it would become “hardwired” into the company. With the new brand, Sedlin said, employees can say, “‘We grow cannabis for a living. We distribute cannabis for a living. Let’s make this part of our daily exercise as professionals.’”
The company will negotiate with suppliers on costs associated with Justice Joints, Sedlin said. “We’re going to try to get them to lower their cost structure to Justice Joints. Charge us what you will for Canndescent and our other brands, but will they lower the cost structure knowing 100% of what we don’t spend on them goes to the charity?”
When asked if other cannabis companies should advocate for prisoner release, reentry and expungement, Sedlin said there are other urgent problems in the U.S. and world as well, like climate change and sex trafficking, and he wouldn’t judge companies for addressing those issues. Before that, though, he said companies should “build a great organization.” He explained:
“The cannabis industry is really hard. Lots of people lost a lot of money trying to build companies. But if company is at a point where they’re beginning to become more successful, as traditionally defined in the business community, I’d say, ‘It’s time to pick up an axe and chop some wood off of something.’ It’s sort of the culture of cannabis. We’re a space of fighters and advocates, so let’s have a whole industry fight for better things.”