Caliva, a vertically integrated cannabis company employing more than 400 people in cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary operations across California, is working to provide career training and mentorship to released prisoners and other people struggling with poverty and homelessness.
The business and partners Chrysalis and Success Centers, both non-profit organizations, have begun to assist recently released prisoners in California to reenter society. The three entities plan to eventually expand their work together to support people who are homeless and have low incomes.
Between March 11 and Nov. 12, 2020, the state of California has released 21,657 people from prison in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“When we heard the news that California state prison systems would be releasing hundreds of thousands of people to slow the spread of COVID-19, we knew we had to take action to help make a difference in our community,” Caliva CEO Dennis O’Malley stated in a press release announcing the program. “We’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we were able to hire some candidates already and have been extremely impressed by the talent thus far.”
Working with Chrysalis and Success Centers, Caliva aims to help everyone enter the workforce, according to the press release. However, the release states, “it is necessary to recognize that the War on Drugs has disproportionately affected BIPOC communities.”
Chrysalis helps people who have been through the criminal justice system with “case management and basic needs resources as well as transitional jobs” that will help them rejoin the workforce, Molly Moen, vice president of development and communications at Chrysalis, told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
“For those who have been recently released during the pandemic, we have been working collaboratively with our re-entry partners to provide direct assistance to ensure that folks can access housing, transportation, and other critical supports while they are engaging in their job search,” Moen said.
Additionally, Moen said Chrysalis provides its clients with goods and services such as clothing, transportation, technology and mailing addresses, and works with partners to assist them with mental health and legal matters.
Caliva’s assistance also extends to equity and ownership opportunities. Success Centers hosts weekly “Equity for Industry” workshops geared specifically toward people looking to enter the cannabis industry, Angela White, Equity for Industry program manager at Success Centers, told CBT and CD. “These workshops provide social equity applicants and members of underrepresented communities with the skills and information they need in order to successfully start cannabis businesses,” she said.
Between Caliva’s Director of Government Affairs Hirsh Jain, Director of Retail Operations Stacie Green and Director of Compliance Ross Mackie, White said the company’s executives have been leading Equity for Industry workshops. Jain focused his recent workshop on how social equity applicants can navigate licensing strategy and policy changes, while Green and Mackie provided attendees with a look into standard operating procedures (SOPs) and their relationship with compliance. Roughly 20 to 40 people attend each Success Centers workshop.
Californians who are convicted of cannabis crimes are not barred under state law from entering or owning cannabis businesses. In fact, municipalities across the state have set up equity programs, and the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) have provided grant funding for them. However, some California equity programs, as elsewhere, have sparked contention.
Jain illustrated a couple differences between city approaches to people’s ability, if they have been convicted of certain crimes, from working in the industry. Caliva runs a 100,000-square-foot indoor growing facility and a flagship dispensary in San Jose. That city bars people who have been convicted of controlled-substance-related crimes in the past 10 years—for substances other than cannabis—from working in the industry, Jain told CBT and CD. Hanford follows a similar approach, he said, but the cannabis exceptions are specifically for medical cannabis.
“Therefore, even though California is generally fairly permissive in allowing formerly incarcerated people to participate in the industry, there are restrictions that do exist and they vary by city,” Jain said. “Caliva is a strong proponent of public policies that reduce these barriers to participating in the industry.”
Simultaneously, California’s drug laws allow people to be jailed for possessing an amount any higher amount than the legal limit of 28.5 grams of flower or 4 grams of concentrates. Maximum penalties are six months in jail, a $500 fine or both, for adult possession of more than 28.5 grams or 4 grams of concentrates with no intent to distribute, according to Proposition 64.
“These fines are too high,” Jain said. “The punitive policies of the War on Drugs destroyed millions of families over several decades. We should not be engaging in a War on Drugs 2.0. There are more effective ways of encouraging people to purchase cannabis legally than criminalizing minor possession.”
Addressing the equity programs in municipalities across California, Jain said they “are a necessary supplement to the work that organizations like Success Centers and Chrysalis do.” (Both organizations also provide career training and mentorship that is not related to the cannabis-industry.)
Underfunding of equity programs has complicated city officials’ ability to help applicants, Jain said, but the BCC and GO-Biz grant funding is a plus. “We are encouraged by the state of California’s recent move to provide $40M in funding for local social equity programs across California,” Jain said. “We are also encouraged that San Jose will also soon adopt a social equity program.”