A new cannabis brand wants to promote change both inside and outside of the marijuana industry, one hash cartridge at a time.
New cannabis oil vaping brand AWARE-N-US launched in Colorado this February, with plans to celebrate Black History Month by donating a portion of sales from each vape cartridge to the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, an organization built to promote Black participation and ownership within the pot industry.
An arm of Batch Signature Extracts and MedPharm, the new brand will donate a minimum of $2 for every cartridge sold to a different nonprofit partner every quarter, says CEO Albert “Albie” Gutierrez.
The first product released by AWARE-N-US is a 500-milligram “bannailla-flavored" (banana and vanilla) vape cartridge, and is currently available in thirty dispensaries across Colorado. The winter 2021 launch is projected to generate a minimum of $6,000 for the Denver-based BCEI, according to the new brand.
“I felt like this is a big part of us saying let’s do something and put our money where our mouth is,” says Gutierrez, who grew up in north Denver before gentrification changed the neighborhood.
“When I was growing up in north Denver, it was a different time. There were a lot of drugs and a lot of gang activity. Many of my friends growing up were thrown in jail for one thing or another, usually cannabis or another drug; I even had some family members that were wrapped up in it.”
Until recently, anyone with a felony conviction was restricted from working in Colorado’s legal weed industry, but recent legislative changes have created new social equity provisions, intended to help victims from the War on Drugs profit from legal cannabis. As advocacy for social equity increased, Gutierrez says he felt an obligation to support the movement.
“Everybody talks about the buzzwords ‘social equity’ and ‘racial disparity.’ You see them everywhere,” he says. “But it’s, like, ‘Okay, well, what are you doing?’”
Gutierrez hopes that as a private company partnering with nonprofits like the BCEI, AWARE-N-US will fuel more social equity efforts within the cannabis industry.
Proceeds from the cartridge sales will support the BCEI's political advocacy and outreach efforts in Colorado, according to founder John Bailey.
“I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to wait on legislation to initiate social equity," Bailey says. "This particular effort is about awareness and accountability. Awareness in terms of ‘We need to do something,’ and accountability in terms of ‘This is what we’re going to do.'"
AWARE-N-US will launch three more vape cartridges this year, with proceeds supporting various nonprofit organizations; Gutierrez plans to partner with a LGBTQ+ organization for a second quarter launch in June, and a Latino organization later in the year. Cartridges sell for around $30 and are available at dispensaries such as Lightshade, Medicine Man, Rocky Mountain Cannabis and more.
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