Finally, a Diversity Summit

Thanks to loyal readers for tolerating my walkabout time in Portland, Oregon over the past few weeks. I’m back in Austin and enduring cannabis prohibition with the Rolling Stones and Arctic Monkeys playing in the background….

What is on my mind, however, isn’t rock music. Or even cannabis prohibition. It’s inclusion. My time in ultra-progressive Portland impressed me with the inclusiveness of its culture. Which is great for Portland and the state of Oregon….


The clone room of a 40,000 sq. foot commercial garden in Eugene, Oregon.

What about the rest of the country? The fledgling cannabis industry is struggling to promote the voices of many minority players, plain and simple. This is only exacerbated by the introduction of big money to the game. Old, established powers are simply rebranding themselves—often under a nefarious cloak—and entering the green rush in an effort to boost their existing profit margins.

Unfortunately, the values of the establishment often clash with those of various segments of the patient and adult user cultures—as well as the various leaders, businesses, and organizations that populate this highly fragmented movement.

The rapid growth of the cannabis industry, commonly known as the “green rush,” has left many segments of the movement-cum-mainstream-business adrift in uncertainty.

Will the future of legal cannabis be diverse and inclusive across socioeconomic, gender, gender preference, and racial lines?

What will be the influence of—and opportunity for—minorities as legal cannabis products and services begin to produce trillions of dollars in revenues and billions in taxes?

Many fear that those who have been marginalized in mainstream society will also suffer within the newly emerging cannabis industry. To ensure a healthy economic ecosystem, the green rush must produce companies and leaders who are capable of breaking from the old rules to embrace a more collaborative framework that truly serves the needs of patients and adults users in the 21st century.

charlo greene1

Cannabis Diversity Summit organizer Charlo Greene (photo credit Go GREENE).

Inclusion, diversity, and a passion for patients will be an inherent part of our culture and industry if Anchorage-based cannabis legalization activist and entrepreneurial dynamo Charlo Greene has anything to say about it.

Cannabis Diversity Summit

Her advocacy group, Go GREENE, has organized the first Cannabis Diversity Summit, a unique event intending to—as its name implies—offer education, inspiration, insight, and networking for minority participants wishing to succeed in the cannabis industry.

“Cultivating diversity and inclusion is our proud duty,” Greene told me during an exclusive interview. Unlike much of the old money entering the cannabis industry, Greene’s passion isn’t rooted in profits.

“Cultivating diversity and inclusion is our proud duty.”  — Charlo Greene

To maximize benefit to participants, the Cannabis Diversity Summit is a free event and will also be livestreamed online at It will be held Sunday, May 15 at the smoke-friendly Nativ Hotel in scenic Denver. The Summit will be an opportunity for all participants to network and exchange ideas. Mentoring relationships will be encouraged to help new members of the cannabis industry gain knowledge from seasoned experts.


Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

The Cannabis Diversity Summit will include a Saturday, May 14 VIP networking mixer and dinner—featuring a special speaker—on the evening prior to the event .


Charlo Greene Q&A

Gooey Rabinski: “What motivated you to organize the Cannabis Diversity Summit, something that has not yet been done in this industry?”

Charlo Greene: “It’s clear that ensuring an inclusive industry for black and brown people is the last priority of cannabis event organizers. Do you know anyone living in a community devastated by prohibition that can afford a $1,000 event pass to gain access to the opportunities the cannabis industry offers?

I don’t.

So I’m taking it upon myself to bring the information and opportunities to the people that really need it—at a price I know they can afford: Free.

Why? Because if not me, who? I cannot, in good conscience, sit idly by and watch the opportunity to re-empower the communities that have been abused by our broken justice system pass. We only have now.”

GR: “Charlo, what do you hope the effect of your Cannabis Diversity Summit is a month into the future? What about six months or a year from now?”

CG: “A month into the future, I expect to see more black and brown faces publicly advocating for cannabis reform and starting cannabis businesses than ever before.

Six months from now, I expect to see black and brown community leaders rallying against voter initiatives that claim sick kids matter, but black lives and the lives of everyone else needlessly locked up over cannabis don’t. And I expect current members of the cannabis industry to no longer sit in silence when watching their colleagues advocate for higher barriers of entry into the industry.

A year from now, I expect the advocates with Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and the Drug Policy Alliance that are helping write voter initiatives and policies to realize that people of color are now watching. They can no longer make concessions that will allow police to continue using cannabis to criminalize members of our communities.”

GR: “Is this the beginning of more efforts to cultivate diversity in our new industry?”

CG: “Absolutely. The Cannabis Diversity Summit happening in Denver is the first of many long-overdue community discussions that we know will inspire immense change. How? By providing education and opportunity to the people the really need it. All free-of-charge.”

GR: “See you in Denver on the 14th….”

CG: “I’m looking forward to it!”


The cannabis-friendly Nativ hotel in Denver, site of the Cannabis Diversity Summit.

All participants in the cannabis industry can do more to embrace and create an inclusive, representative culture that fosters collaboration and strong creative forces and fairness within the industry. In fact, without this cooperative spirit, the industry will miss an opportunity to do things right.

Let’s begin with a common base of knowledge and a perspective worthy of this amazing plant and its ability to help humanity. The Cannabis Diversity Summit is a great start. Let’s hope we see more of this type of organized activism in the future. 

Cannabis Diversity Summit Agenda

  • Cannabis industry pioneers sharing how to get into the new legal industry.
  • Game-changing activists offering invaluable insight on winning the fight for reform.
  • As a show of unity, representatives from all active cannabis advocacy and industry organizations with a focus on diversity will have the opportunity to present.

Perspectives from thought leaders of color on the following topics:

  • Legislation
  • Regulation
  • Law enforcement
  • Advocacy
  • Marijuana as medicine
  • Mass incarceration
  • And more….

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2016 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.

Gooey Rabinski is a writer, instructional designer, and cannabis satirist who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, The KindSKUNK, Cannabis Culture, WhaxyHeads, Weed World, Green Flower MediaCannabis HBK11RenderHealth Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.

He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.

His cannabis-related freelance photos, spanning back more than a decade, are available on Instagram and Flickr. He tweets from @GooeyRabinski.


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