New Mexico officials have already begun taking steps to open the doors on the adult-use cannabis market. Experts say our law is one of the most progressive pieces of cannabis legislation in the nation. The Cannabis Control Division recently announced its goal to see half of the industry licenses issued to representatives of communities that have been negatively impacted by the War On Drugs. We sat down with Robert Jackson, Executive Director of Seven Point Farms, to discuss equity and sustainability in the cannabis industry and how the future bodes for New Mexico.
The Paper.: It seems easy to talk about the good things happening in the cannabis industry. Are there any aspects that industry leaders should watch out for?
Jackson: I’m a Black American, and my biggest axe to grind is that this industry needs sustainability. And the thing about the word “sustainability” is it gets thrown around a lot. People focus on environmental aspects of sustainability, but in reality, sustainability is a three-pronged beast. It’s societal, it’s economic, and it’s environmental. I truly believe that cannabis is a business that can be sustainable—a business that can be socially equitable.
Environmental sustainability is obviously the number one thing that people are concerned about. Can we keep the balance of natural resources and replenish them and do this in a closed loop—or as close to closed as possible? But the other thing that we’re lacking—the other thing that needs to be in the conversation—is economic sustainability. Cannabis is an opportunity to give everyone the ability to have and secure a source of livelihood. That’s important to me.
And then on the societal prong of this: It’s just about the universal rights, basically. There’s hypocrisy to be found in the people making money from cannabis right now, compared to the people paying the price for cannabis right now.
As the CEO of a cannabis company, I carry that weight deliberately. I don’t want to run an irresponsible company. My hope for the future and our business model is to run something truly sustainable.
Are you concerned that this isn’t going to be addressed?
First of all, addressing it is difficult. It’s hard. It takes real thought and a little bit—well, a lot—of sacrifice. If you throw cannabis into the capitalist system, you’re chasing the bottom line, you’re driving your cost to produce down, you’re selling at the highest rate, and everything in the middle is gone. You’re following the value stream, and that’s that.
What we have here is an industry that has the ability to do it all. And not all industries have that ability—particularly for New Mexico. I think that this could be extremely beneficial for the entire community.
Do you feel that the state is making it easy for microbusinesses looking to get involved in the industry?
I think they are. I think that they have done an excellent job at starting the conversation. The legislation that passed gave some room to be awfully inclusive. I think that Regulation and Licensing Department have to take that into account—in fact, I know that they have. They’ve added some variances that are going to help folks—particularly rural folks. If you look at New Mexico, it’s a rural state. I think that they’re trying their hardest. Social equity is a huge area, and it is multi-pronged and multifaceted. There’s many organizations and many groups that have to move the needle on this simultaneously.
Social equity needs to be worked towards together. So I think it’s unfair to just put it on one entity, although this one entity has a huge burden, and can have a huge effect on social equity. It’s important to understand that this is a living document, and that we have to keep the pressure on. As things change and become more real, we can change that document if we need to. But we have to participate in the system.
Most of our microbusiness folks would do well to understand that it’s a living document, and that nothing happens overnight. We are where we are because of people that have been working on this for 10 years—trying to work with regulators and trying to move the needle.
I think, right now, the burden of entry is very high. The barrier to entry is high for smaller businesses, and I’d like to see it changed. I see that there’s been some movement with provisional licenses, and things like variances are going to help us to be further inclusive. I also think there is an onus on folks like myself that have companies to actively engage, hire and educate. I’m offering my help to anybody who wants to get into this industry—particularly people of color and those disproportionately affected by prohibition. I think it’s a huge opportunity for some of our state’s disenfranchised communities to capitalize on legalization.
I know that it’s a slippery slope, and I know that it’s a hard road to hoe, but I’d love to see more opportunities for dispensaries or grows inside the Native community in New Mexico. But I think it’s a good opportunity, and I really appreciate that the state put in language that is inclusive. I hope to see and I hope to help any tribes that are looking into it—help open that door for them. It’s not as cut and dry for the tribes, because of the sovereignty and federal involvement.
Returning to sustainability: One of the biggest things that we can do sustainably for society, is to deschedule cannabis. That would make it more equitable for everybody. And right now one of the biggest groups that’s been penalized by the prohibition of cannabis can’t even participate without a milieu of lawyers and hoops, and are still riding this edge, worrying, “Are the feds going to come in and cut our crops down because we’re growing on federal land?”
What’s on the horizon for Seven Point Farms?
We’re just focusing on sustainability. We are an organic grow operation. It’s really important for us to continue to bring that ethos and that frame of mind to our business and our customers and patients.
All in all, I think I’m happy to see this moving forward for the state. I think there’s a net gain here that we’re all going to appreciate. And I call on all of my fellow cannabis CEOs to turn up the inclusion. Spread the Love.
Seven Point Farms is one of New Mexico’s leading cannabis producers. For more information, visit sevenpointfarms.com.