Confessions of a Cannabis Rabbi Part 1: So Much More Than Weed

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For nearly two decades I served as a pulpit rabbi. Looking back the only easy thing about the job was answering the question, “what do you do for a living.”

“I’m a rabbi,” may kill cocktail party conversations, but it definitely made it simple to explain my profession.

Fast forward to today and trying to explain my past few years as a canna-preneur, and now Director of Social Equity and Economic Development for ONE Cannabis Group-- though fun for cocktail parties, it doesn’t make it a quick and easy explanation.

When most people think of cannabis they think “weed.” They think stoners, potheads and hippies on the one hand. Or, in the wild world of legalized cannabis, they now think uber-wealthy investors or corporate predators on the other. And though all of these are present within the industry, it’s hardly today’s cannabis reality.

Yes, cannabis today is quickly becoming big business. Corporations are heavily involved and Big Pharma, Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol are starting to arrive as well. Of course, with Big anything comes big corporate shadows and some big, bad corporate behavior, which is unfortunately present too. However, there are plenty of examples of corporate community stewards and people who want to do right within this industry and by this industry (like my company, ONE Cannabis). And yes, there are wealthy investors getting wealthier, but many of them are driven by social impact. They expect a return on investment that is solid, but also want their investment to make a positive impact upon the world.

And yes, there is still a hippie culture within cannabis, but it’s the exception, not the norm. The vast majority of dispensary customers I have gotten to know are mainstream folks, far more likely to be taking their CBD tincture to a kid’s soccer game than smoking a bowl at a Grateful Dead cover band concert (no offense to all of my Deadhead friends). And on the non-plant touching side of the business, such as my corporate office at ONE Cannabis, I’d say nearly half of the employees don’t partake in recreational cannabis, though all of us are passionate about the plant regardless. And that has been the most remarkable aspect of this industry.

One defining difference between this industry and most others is that whether you are talking about old hippies from Woodstock or new cannabis startups taking the market by storm, this is an industry which attracts people who care, who are concerned and who want to make a difference in the world. Although many are in this industry to make money, the vast majority of folks I meet are idealistic, cause driven and looking to leverage this plant for their particular cause.

What kind of causes?

Some cannabis professionals are focused on the environment and others on social impact. Some are passionate about social justice and others are health and wellness concerned. Some are using this as an opportunity for prison reform and others for combating the opioid epidemic. There are no shortage of causes tied to this plant, and there are certainly no shortage of passionate advocates utilizing cannabis as a platform for change.

So, the next time you hear about the cannabis industry, or meet someone working within it, or find out your family member, or friend or colleague uses cannabis, perhaps this blog will give you cause to pause. Yes, to some, marijuana was, is and will always be just weed. For others legalized cannabis is only about the profits. However, to the vast majority of us in the business, this plant is a pathway to all kinds of world changing, life sustaining, societal transforming changes. It’s so much more than weed so get on board and get involved!

Blessings,

Rabbi B