GR: I have been working in cannabis for 20 years. In 2012 I had the opportunity to start a compliant business in Colorado but found my partners were only interested in making money off of cannabis. I learned then how much of an advocate I am for the plant and decided to seek out partners who share that value.
I found in my current partners, Adam, Elie and Scott a desire to build a successful and responsible company. When we launched Papa & Barkley we sought to create a brand that would lead the industry’s growth in a new, sustainable, “green” way. Revenue was part of the equation, but not the entire picture. We knew Papa & Barkley’s identity would be one we could all be proud of. I continue to be inspired by what we’ve built and by our mission of unlocking the plant to improve lives.
Why is diversity and inclusion across the cannabis industry important to you?
GR: Diversity and inclusion across the cannabis industry are important to me because people of color have consistently paid the highest price for usage, possession and distribution of cannabis as we moved toward our current reality. In fact, while people of color have paid a disproportionate price on the long road to safe access, predominantly white folks are benefiting from cannabis legalization. As we continue to create this extraordinary industry from the ground up, and as our companies grow, we cannot allow people of color to continue to be marginalized. To do so would set us up to follow the same structures of inequality that exist in other industries. Rather, with a mindset focused on change and responsibility, we can cultivate the cannabis industry as one rooted in equality.
How is cannabis connected to your life?
GR: Cannabis is my life. For most of my adult life, I have risked the security of myself and my family to advocate for plant medicine with the goal of bringing cannabis legalization and normalization to the forefront. Cannabis advocacy is a fundamental part of my personal identity.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
GR: What really motivates me is my understanding that cannabis is part of a larger, greener movement that will hopefully instigate positive change in other industries. While other industries have been built with destructive practices at their core – practices that hurt the environment and our communities – we are currently building the cannabis industry, which means we have the ability to shape it in a more responsible and value-driven way. For example, in the cannabis industry, we have been self-regulating not only because we had to, but because we wanted to. Even now in our nascent industry, consumers know to look under the hoods of brands and choose companies that do the right thing. I believe cannabis will be as large as pharma, tobacco and alcohol, but even more exciting than that is the notion that we can do better than those industries. We can use our collective revenue to ensure our industry lobbies for justice, equality, sustainability and other values we hold dear.
With this discussion being on MLK Day 2021, discuss the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact in your life OR share your favorite MLK quote.
GR: Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence in my life is very salient. I grew up in New York City and in 7th and 8th grade I began noticing that on MLK Day, kids of color would take the day off from school. MLK Day was not yet a federal holiday, but the local black community celebrated it as one because they felt it deserved observance. They used small acts of defiance like cutting class to fight for change. That’s when I began to understand what it means to be a patriot. America’s founders framed the constitution in a way that allows us to adapt over time. Those changes typically stem from acts that challenge the status quo. We are, at our very core, a rebel nation that constantly questions how we operate, identifies ways we could do better and then implements those solutions. While it may seem counterintuitive, patriotism and fighting back are one in the same. That’s the sentiment I took with me when I ultimately joined the U.S. Navy. Watching my community stand up for MLK Day served as a formative moment that influenced the trajectory of my life and my understanding of what it means to be a patriot.