• leighanalynn

What Equity in Cannabis Should Look Like with Success Centers

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

We spoke with Success Centers’ - a non-profit organization on a mission to empower marginalized community members through education, employment and art programs, so they may develop a positive self-image as well as a sense of hope and purpose for their future.

Success Centers is a recognized and respected leader for these programs, which produce outstanding results for hundreds of disconnected youth and other marginalized community members each year.

Founded by Superior Court Judges 36 years ago to provide education and employment opportunities to youth in San Francisco’s juvenile detention facilities. Success Centers has grown to provide services to community members in San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma and Alameda Counties with more districts in progress.

Of the 1300 disconnected youth and marginalized community members Success Centers serves annually, over 95 percent are low-income and 87 percent are people of color, with the majority being African American and Latinx/Hispanic — 46 percent and 20 percent respectively (2017-2018 stats, 2018-2019 pending).

We spoke with Equity for Industry Program Manager, Angela White and CEO Liz Jackson-Simpson about the work they do at Success Centers and the crucial role they are playing in the cannabis industry and the services they offer.

Equity for Industry Training

Success Centers’ Equity for Industry Training was developed to ensure marginalized community members have opportunities to enter the emerging cannabis industry. They provide support to employers, equity job seekers and equity applicants to meet the mandates delineated in San Francisco’s cannabis legislation. Both local and state policymakers are seeking to use the evolving cannabis industry as an opportunity for economic and social justice: the need to train people from communities of color in the skills required to be certified for work and/or business development in the sector. The program is a model for other cities and jurisdictions throughout California.

“I’m glad we have allies out there that are rallying around the cause and want to support the motion of Black Lives Matter but this is what our organization was founded on and the Black community has been oppressed since the conception of the country. We’re not new to this, this is our life's work -- we are proactive in changing the systems in a hands on way to make sure people are moving.” - Liz

Equity for Industry Workshop

Success Centers’ Equity for Industry Workshops provide informative sessions for Equity Applicants, Job Seekers, those seeking equity verification and small business start-ups who want to gain in depth knowledge about the cannabis industry. Participants learn about cannabis from industry leaders, from seed to sell, everything from the history of the industry and the law, to how to create a business plan or managing different aspects of the industry. Participants come from throughout the greater Bay Area.

Angela also puts a lot of intention into reaching out to incorporate equity into cannabis programs. “We want this to be included in planning and a before thought, not an afterthought.” - Angela White.

Budding Industry Job Shop

Success Centers’ Budding Industry Job Shop provides access to jobs available for immediate hire from cannabis companies around the Bay Area. This gives employers a chance to work with job seekers from the equity community and takes away that stigma about what “qualified” for a job means. Equity programs are a great idea but when people are coming to a new industry without college educations it can be difficult, this program works to change that.

What do you do?

Angela White: Equity for Industry Program Manager

Angela’s focus is developing sustainable career and entrepreneurial paths previously less accessible to communities impacted by inequality and the War on Drugs. She offers community members career assessments and coaching, job placement, access to on-the-job training, and job training for employment in the cannabis industry. She also assists verified equity applicants in obtaining the critical business experience, educational resources and toolsets required to develop sustainable business models and achieve entrepreneurial success.

In less than two years at Success Centers, Angela has developed an incredible array of workshops, resources and growth opportunities for community members and Success Centers partners seeking to establish their equitable participation in the rapidly expanding cannabis industry. 

Angela’s development and implementation of the Budding Industry Job Shop and Equity for Industry Workshop has forged the gold standard of equitable cannabis workforce and business development events. Angela’s also responsible for Success Centers’ partnership with Oaksterdam University and Hood Incubator, providing opportunities for community members to engage in these preeminent cannabis business tracks through scholarship. 

A Bay Area local and herself a graduate of Oaksterdam University, Angela draws from pioneering experience in cannabis entrepreneurship under California’s Proposition 215 medical marijuana program and the recently implemented AUMA adult-use regulatory framework. Angela helped launch one of the first MMJ collectives in East Palo Alto and later a MMJ dispensary in San Jose. Angela’s first-hand knowledge of the many facets in day-to-day work performed at startups in the space—from cultivation and budtending, retail design and staffing, to dispatching drivers and office management—forms the foundation of her mentorship with aspiring new employees, businesses, and equity entrepreneurs.

Liz Jackson-Simpson: CEO

Liz Jackson-Simpson has served as the Executive Director of Success Centers since 2010. She has over 32 years of workforce development and juvenile justice experience. During her limited tenure with the organization she has tripled its capacity taking it from a $450K to $2.1M organization doubling the staff, bringing new donors in addition to the acquisition of a new community location in the Western Addition.

Although Liz is indeed an artist, even art took a second place to her love of community. While at San Francisco State, Liz began working with the Private Industry Council (now known as the Office of Economic and Workforce Development), becoming an expert in workforce development and education programs, and eventually co-authoring the highly praised Youth Opportunity grant from the Federal Department of Labor. The YO! grant secured $28 million for youth employment programs in San Francisco.

She then went to the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, where she spent 16 years creating job training programs at Log Cabin Ranch for Boys, and developing re-integration services for young people released from incarceration. Liz directed the Juvenile Probation Department’s Community Programs Division, overseeing millions of dollars each year for enrichment programs and opportunities for our youth.

After retiring from the SF Juvenile Probation Department, Liz took the challenge to become the first Executive Director of the Success Center following a five year-stint as the first-ever YMCA of San Francisco Executive Director of Program Development—a position created specifically to showcase and borrow her enormous expertise. Back to her career roots within the YMCA, Liz is working hard to develop strong connections between traditional YMCA wellness programs and desperately needed social services.

What are you passionate about?

Angela - “The cannabis plant in itself and making sure equity has a foot in this industry. The Black and Brown community has been over incarcerated for cannabis from the beginning, and I want to make sure those people have a chance to become business owners.”

Liz - “Making sure they have an equal level playing field and resources and information.”

What makes you feel authentic?

A - “Being true to oneself. Being true to one's work. Being true to one’s constituents. Being out there to help provide resources for Black people to thrive.”

L - “Making sure equity is at the forefront.”

Which brands in the space are supporting Equity for Industry Programming?

A - Aster Farms, Peak Extracts, Eminent Consulting, to name a few. We’ve partnered with MD Farms, a 100% Black owned business, so our constituents can visit a cultivation site, see the cloning and the trimming, witness all the aspects of having a greenhouse grow, as well as ask questions.

L - Another partner of ours is Oaksterdam University. They ensure that equity is able to attend Cannabusiness Seminars to learn everything from how to purchase plants to how to create a security layout.

Who are some of the Success Stories we should look out for?

A - Shawn Richards, SF Roots, Berner’s on Haight, Posh Green Collective, and Damien Posey - support them!

Photos by Jennifer Skog