Social Equity in Cannabis Matters

August 18, 2022

Walking the talk in cannabis social equity isn’t an easy task. 

Everyone involved in cannabis has an opinion about what social equity means and what needs to be done to right the wrongs done by cannabis prohibition and overzealous policing.

As we see it, social equity acknowledges that systemic inequalities exist in our industry and community. A successful social equity plan and program works to eliminate the inequities and ensures that everyone has access to opportunities and positive outcomes. 

We’d be untruthful if we said we have a sure-fire solution or are doing something extraordinarily profound to make reparations for the harm that came from prohibition. That’s a more significant issue that we want to see solved. Still, as a small, locally-owned business, we see our role in social equity as doing what’s within our capacity to improve the neighborhood around Pharmhouse Wellness.

We do this with job creation in our store and cultivation facility; through purposeful utilization of companies in our community with owners that are BIPOC, veterans, women or are members of the LGBTQ community; initiating projects that improve the safety and beauty of our industrialized neighborhood. We also support our closest neighbors with a financial contribution—living next door to an active dispensary isn’t always quiet or easy. We work closely with our local neighborhood association and nearby nonprofits, ensuring they know what’s happening at our store and grow. Our plan is here on our website.

In July 2022, we received news that Pharmhouse Wellness would receive Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency’s first gold award through its Cannabis Social Equity All-Star program. Of more than 500 cannabis retailers in Michigan, Pharmhouse was the first to complete and submit the three documents required for the award. 

The three required parts of the application consist of our social equity plan, which we submitted to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency two years ago; but have since updated; a spreadsheet showing how we spend part of our budget with specific types of vendors; and an overview of how we’re reinvesting in the community. All of that information is on the CRA’s website.

One of the perks of being the first gold awardee in the Social Equity All-Star program is that we could host the director of the CRA at Pharmhouse and tell our story to the media, too.

We captured two video segments we want to share—owner Casey is talking to our friends and the media about his views regarding social equity. In the other, Director Brisbo discusses the program and its role in Michigan’s cannabis industry. 

This award is only the start of the work we’re doing in social equity—we have a partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., The Rapid, Exodus Place and MobileGR to re-imagine and prototype a safer, more walkable and bikeable intersection at Front and Wealthy. You can expect new bus stops, crosswalks, seating and art in the coming months. Folks using the bus will experience a more accessible waiting space and not have to travel as far to a stop which is especially important for people using wheelchairs. 

The West Wealthy corridor is changing, and we’re proud to put the people who live and work along this street first regarding its design and function. 

Giving this part of Grand Rapids its due for safe and pleasant amenities is one way we can do our part in dismantling the inequities our neighbors have felt for decades.