Philadelphia nonprofits Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity and Why Not Prosper receive the “Good Green” grant from cannabis giant Green Thumb Industries.
Last week, Good Green, a new social equity brand and initiative from nationally known cannabis retailer Green Thumb Industries, hooked up two Philadelphia nonprofits with separate $75,000 grants for their work regarding fair, ethical and equitable treatment for its client base.
The check-giving ceremony occurred at Ethos Dispensary at 807 Locust Street with monies given to Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (they advocate for systemic reform and provide free legal advice and representation to low-income local residents held back by criminal records, seeking expungements and pardons) and Why Not Prosper (they provides pre-prison release mentoring to incarcerated women as well as residential and community services to help incarcerated Philadelphia women transition successfully from prison to reentering society).
The moment has passed like smoke into the ether, but the good work of the cannabis-driven Green Thumb Industries, and Ben Kovler, CEO, is just getting started.
“Creating real, sustained progress against the War on Drugs has been at the core of Green Thumb’s mission since our inception,” says Kovler. “Cannabis is legally accessible to over 40% of the U.S. population but continues to be disproportionately weaponized against communities of color. Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related infractions than white Americans. Many of these individuals are among the 40,000 prisoners still incarcerated for cannabis convictions, and our current criminal justice system makes it nearly impossible for them to find meaningful employment after they are released. Our ultimate goal is to work with organizations and other industry stakeholders to rectify the damage perpetuated by the failed War on Drugs. We see Good Green as an opportunity to invest our resources in local organizations that uplift marginalized groups and address the social and economic disparities created by unjust drug laws. Through Good Green, we are working with three nonprofits based in Green Thumb’s key markets that support one of the initiative’s three pillars: expungement, education and employment. Over the next year, we look forward to scaling this program and partnering with even more nonprofits to create very real social and professional change for impacted communities.”
For the local angle on the communal and ethical good that Green Thumb and its Good Green (cannabis and cash) will do for the region, dosage spoke to beloved Philadelphian Renee Chenault Fattah from Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity to get the scoop.
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about how the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity’s mission and vision related to Green Thumb’s new initiative, and how you got started in the first place?
Renee Chenault Fattah: Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) was founded in 2011 by three civil rights lawyers who saw the harm being done in communities of color from criminal records. Years after a sentence has been served, criminal records continue to be a barrier to good jobs, education, housing and family stability in communities of color. For the past decade, PLSE has focused on providing expungements and pardons to low income people. We filed our 25,000th petition last month.
A.D. Amorosi: What good will the money from Green Thumb do, in the immediate?
Renee Chenault Fattah: This new initiative from Green Thumb will allow us to do even more expungements and pardons. If you look at Green Thumb’s mission statement they call for “social equity” for Black and Brown communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs so our missions could not be more perfectly aligned.
A.D. Amorosi: What was it about the Good Green grant that excited you or piqued your interest?
Renee Chenault Fattah: There are so many issues at play. We are starting to see attention focused on the absence of African-American ownership in the cannabis industry, and the attention is a good thing. Black and brown communities should benefit economically from this growth industry especially since we know that Blacks are three times as likely to be arrested as Whites even though usage rates are the same. But what attracted Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity to the Good Green grant was that the grant language expressly said they wanted to help organizations that provide “expungements” of people’s records. It was a “Eureka” moment because it was clear the Good Green team was both acknowledging the systemic inequalities but then saying “hey let’s put our money out there and do something about this!” They should be congratulated because this is how change happens.
A.D. Amorosi: How will the grant funding impact your organization and the greater Philadelphia area?
Renee Chenault Fattah: The Good Green Grant has enabled us to create a new initiative… Marijuana Amnesty Program. Our goal is to greatly increase the number of cannabis-related cases reaching the board of pardons. And we want to speed up the process, to make it happen within a year! Every day wasted is a missed opportunity for people to get a better job, education or housing. We are holding monthly clinics that are centrally located to help people through the process to apply for a pardon on an accelerated track. This program is in addition to our regular pardon and expungement work. To qualify for the Amnesty Program your charge has to be non-violent, not driving under the influence (unless you were a medical marijuana cardholder at the time) and you have to meet income requirements. We are a small organization trying to reach a huge population with criminal record histories so we are so grateful to Good Green- their generous grant will help us make a difference.
For more information go to PLSEPHILLY.org and click Pardons at the top of the page.