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It’s easier to talk about social equity in cannabis than it is to take action. My company, Flourish Software, doesn’t hire in droves, so we can’t really create many jobs for people who were hurt by the War on Drugs. Similarly, as a startup, we don’t have a huge budget for charitable donations.
But we can still make a difference. Last year, spurred by a team member who lost decades with her father because he was imprisoned for nonviolent cannabis offenses, we decided to help the pioneers of our industry.
We launched a program last April to give qualified social equity cannabis organizations a 99 percent discount for access to our platform (for the price of $420). As we celebrate its one-year anniversary, we’d like to share the experience of our first beneficiary.
First, some details. Applicants to our program must be designated social equity licensees or, if not available, fall within the parameters of what these programs look like in other states. They also must have been licensed for less than five years and have an annual revenue of less than $1 million. This doesn’t mean we can’t discount the software for companies outside of these criteria, but our goal is to jump start newly licensed businesses and provide the tools to be successful in a competitive market.
The perfect applicant
Ali Jamalian of San Francisco’s Sunset Connect fit squarely in the profile of who we wanted to bring into this program. After growing up in Germany, he came to the United States to attend college in San Francisco, where he started selling cannabis for a network of growers in the Sunset community of the city.
A bust in 1999 led to several years of incarceration, parole, and deportation threats before he decided to return to Germany to work in tech and advertising. He returned to the Bay Area after medical marijuana was legalized, and he opened Sunset Connect in 2020 within California’s recreational cannabis market as one of the first social equity license holders in the city.
Before we selected the company to be part of our first set of operators in this initiative, Sam Joo, Sunset Connect’s director of manufacturing, said he had to keep track of the operation with pen and paper: “It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the myriad regulations required for cannabis sales, let alone the inventory and distribution tracking and calculations,” he recalls.
But the new software allowed him to do the task with the push of a button. Ali and Sam report that labor costs have come down 20 percent, while the growing side is 10 percent to 20 percent more productive—and they still feel they could adopt additional Flourish capabilities to do more.
We also get some benefits from this relationship. For one, the more people on our platform, the more it helps us determine how to drive it forward. Furthermore, their product is amazing. It was a treat to get to tour the facility and see how sophisticated their methods are to bring their pre-rolls, hash, and edibles to market. Eventually we hope Sunset Connect and our other soon-to-be-found social equity clients will “graduate” and buy full-priced plans, but for now it is just rewarding to count them as a valued client.
We find our program especially gratifying when we are helping those who took incredible risks and suffered immensely in the darkest days of the War on Drugs (and, in case anyone has doubts, people are still going to prison for cannabis).
On this 4/20, we encourage our industry colleagues to consider what they can do to help our industry pioneers and the social equity operators they have become. You won’t regret it.
Colton Griffin is CEO of Flourish Software, a technology provider of enterprise supply chain and inventory management software built for cannabis, CBD, and hemp operations. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.