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Five Enriching Questions with Tahir Johnson, Director of Inclusion/US Cannabis Council

Five Enriching Questions with Tahir Johnson, Director of Inclusion/US Cannabis Council

 I had the pleasure of connecting with Tahir through the magic of the inter-webs. Even though we both are New Jersey residents, our paths had not crossed. But that shouldn’t stop you from allowing Tahir the chance to speak his mind for a moment, all the way out in California. Please let me have the honor to share the wisdom that Tahir holds within himself. He is most talented and obviously driven to change the world. Lucky me to be on his radar. This is a young man who is on a path to success. And he’s from New Jersey! 

Warren Bobrow: Please tell me what you’ve accomplished lately? What part of the cannabis business do you work in?

Tahir Johnson: I’ve had quite a few amazing recent accomplishments. I was just awarded conditional approval by the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission for a dispensary license in my hometown of Ewing, NJ, with my business, Simply Pure Trenton NJ.

We also just finished the first cohort of my internship program that I created at the US Cannabis Council in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation placing African-American interns at some of the most prominent cannabis companies in the world. Having the opportunity to introduce these young people to the industry has been the highlight of my professional career.

Another recent accomplishment that I’m proud of was being accepted into the Harvard University Social Innovation + Change Initiative Center for Public Leadership’sLeadership’s Power and Influence for Positive Impact online certificate program. I’m excited to “roll up that joint” and continue my education.

I wear a number of different hats. I serve in dual roles as Director of Social Equity and Inclusion at the US Cannabis Council and Marijuana Policy Project, two of the leading organizations focused on cannabis legalization at the federal and state levels. I specifically work to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity in the industry through policy and policy programs and advance opportunities for minorities and those impacted by the war on drugs. I also host a podcast, The Cannabis Diversity Report, which has been recognized as one of the top shows in the industry. 

WB: Please tell me about the US Cannabis Council? What are your core principles? Six and twelve-month goals?

TJ: USCC’sUSCC’s mission is to build a future of legal access to cannabis delivered through an equitable and values-driven industry by advancing cannabis legalization at the federal and state level and promoting restorative justice for communities harmed by cannabis prohibition.

In the short term window, organizing support for the SAFE Banking Act is our primary objective at USCC. The bill has bipartisan support, and incremental gain from this passing would have a huge impact on the entire industry. The lack of banking for cannabis businesses has created public safety risks and challenges for social equity operators. Putting an end to 280E and advancing comprehensive cannabis policy reform are our top priorities over the next 12 months and beyond. 

WB: Who is your mentor? We have intersecting lives (Banking). What was the most valuable lesson you learned in Wealth Management? 

TJ: The most beneficial lessons that I learned during my time in Wealth Management are the value of having a plan and how to craft an effective elevator pitch. It also taught me a great deal of confidence. 

Some of the best mentoring advice that I’ve gotten in my career came from Carla A Harris, Senior Client Advisor, during my time at Morgan Stanley. In her book ‘Expect To Win,’ she highlights the difference between a mentor, advocate, and sponsor and why you should have all three. Another mentor of mine during my tenure at the firm was Marilyn Booker, former Managing Director and Head of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. A lot of what I learned about DEI came from my experience working with her, and I am happy that we still keep in touch today.

See Also

I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many along the way, but my first mentor in cannabis was Shanita Penny, former board chair of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. We met through a mutual friend in our HBCU network, and she exposed me to the importance of advocacy and the business of legal cannabis. She also introduced me to the National Cannabis Industry Association, where I started my professional career in cannabis.

I have the benefit of working closely with both Steve Hawkins and Toi Hutchinson, who serve as the CEOs of the US Cannabis Council and Marijuana Policy Project, respectively, and I consider them both mentors. Steve’s long history working as a leader in civil rights and Toi’s experience as a legislator and regulator has been invaluable.

WB: What obstacles do you face in the legal cannabis business? How do you anticipate removing them?

TR: My biggest obstacle at the moment by far is raising capital to fund my new cannabis business venture. I applied for a conditional license. Once I’m approved, I will still need funds to acquire real estate and working capital to run the business. I am finalizing arrangements to begin fundraising, and I would love to talk with anyone who is interested in investing! 

I had the opportunity to testify in the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee’s Hearing on Cannabis last week on 5/12 and highlighted the fact that access to capital is the greatest barrier to entry into the cannabis industry, especially for underrepresented founders who typically have less personal wealth and access to funding from Private Equity and Venture Capital.