Equity: Re-defining Community Values in San Jose

Written by: Daniel Montero, @sjcewg

A reference to Aesop’s Fable The Tortoise vs The Hare gives us a better picture of the journey that started over two years ago. The lead runner is Dr. Armaline SJSU Human Rights Institute, I will take credit for breaking ground back in January ’18. My name is Daniel Montero, I have been working in the cannabis industry full time my entire adult life. I am the recipient of the 2016 Ganjier Award, serve as Chair for the San Jose Cannabis Equity Working Group, and am a founding member of the Bay Area Latino Cannabis Alliance.

Let’s travel back in time for a moment. 2017 ended with the solemn realization that I stood little to no chance of participating in the nascent legal market without doing my best to launch a local cannabis equity program. At the time I was contributing towards the effort to legalize cannabis delivery statewide. I was introduced to Dr. Armaline by a colleague of mine, Nina Parks, an SF based cannabis activist . Lucky for me, Dr. Armaline loves ganja and has a healthy appetite for social justice. In the Spring of ’18, we began meeting like clockwork at a local Starbucks along with other SJ based delivery operators and activists. Timing also played a crucial role. We got our start after Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles put their programs in play. This gave us the ability to observe the pros and cons of each program and tailor ours accordingly. After just over a year of hard work we were rewarded with two unanimous votes from City Council. The first for the San Jose Equity Assistance Program and the second for the San Jose Equity Fund. The latter calling for a more equitable distribution of city resources and services, and a precursor of today’s San Jose/Santa Clara County Equity Pledge. 

Cannabis Equity in SJ differs most from other programs in that accountability and implementation are absolutely forefront. SJ does not mandate that equity operators partner with often problematic corporate private interest, there is no income requirement nor a residency requirement. San Jose is setting the stage to having the lowest point of entry for equity operators in California. Furthermore, the city has received a grant totalling $150K to study how to best roll out equity in a world where the term itself continues to evolve. 

In spite of so much rapid change within our industry and society at large, the lesson to be learned is that maintaining positive relationships with those in power is of utmost importance and must remain constant. A key to our success in San Jose is the open communication we have with our decision makers. Also, we give back to our community as often as we can. Last year, SJCEWG volunteered to participate in local re-election campaigns, community clean up projects and community outreach. I would like to take a moment to thank San Jose Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco, Raul Peralez, Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez, and Sylvia Arenas for their friendship and continued support for a more equitable San Jose.

We have accomplished so much in two years. However there is still much work to be done. We are at the crossroads of a historic opportunity to create an inclusive industry and communal wealth in a sector that is predicted to outgrow Big Tech. As an industry we must continue to educate our political and business leaders knowing that equity continues to re-define community value and long term economic benefit.

The message for my Latino brothers and sisters pushing for change is this. Introduce yourself to the powers that be. Exercise your voice. Now is the time to be seen and heard. Last but not least. A revolutionary is motivated by deep love for his or her people. Anything is possible when we put our heart into our work. In this spirit we can continue to shape this industry so that it too is a place we can call our casita for generations to come. 

Si se puede. Together we can.

Si se puede. Together we can.

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