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We’re working together to create new cannabis jobs and disrupt cycles of poverty in black and Latino communities.
Before Rebelle ever sold an ounce of cannabis, Charlotte Hanna knew she needed ROCA.
The Rebelle CEO was deeply aware of the hypocrisies facing her nascent cannabis industry in Massachusetts. After all, she was a female entrepreneur in an industry where 87 percent of the pending cannabis applications were owned by white men.
But more pressing was the state’s cannabis criminalization rates. In Boston, from 2000 to 2018, black people made up 66 percent of marijuana possession charges — despite only accounting for 22 percent of Boston’s population. If Charlotte was going to open a legal cannabis business in Massachusetts, she knew it had to help the very communities that illegal cannabis had hurt.
That’s why Charlotte turned to ROCA, Inc. The Boston-based non profit had seen first hand how employment opportunities could disrupt cycles of poverty and incarceration among young adults. Since its founding in 1988, ROCA has dedicated itself to lifting black and brown men and women out of poverty and away from prison through outreach, tailored programming, and job training with community partners like Rebelle.
“I’m a big believer in partnering with like-minded people. I couldn’t have found better partners than Chris and the team at ROCA.”
—Charlotte Hanna, CEO of Rebelle
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Marcus Williams, Rebelle’s Vice President, remembers how poverty impacted young black lives like his own while growing up in the Boston suburb of Dorchester.
“Everyone [was] trying to make the most of what they have,” he says.
He recalls a student from his high school, “a star kid,” who couldn’t afford tuition and was forced to drop out. The friend ended up dealing drugs and was eventually robbed at gunpoint. “Sometimes, if you don’t have a lot, you gotta work with what you know.” And what poor black communities know, he says, is cannabis.
“All of these communities that the state has identified as disproportionately impacted by marijuana criminalization are also the same community where industries left,” Charlotte says.
If Marcus and Charlotte could combine ROCA’s mentorship with Rebelle’s new business needs, they knew they could bring jobs back to poor neighborhoods and use cannabis to empower communities.
CREATING A JOB PIPELINE
After a chance encounter in Holyoke, where Charlotte literally ran into a ROCA employee on the street (“They welcomed me with open arms.”), Rebelle and ROCA hit the ground running.
“Charlotte has never wavered from the idea of working with our young people and that is the type of person I want to entrust my young people to,” says Christine Judd, Director of ROCA Springfield and Holyoke. “We are a family at ROCA and I really got the sense that Rebelle has a similar philosophy and they believe in second chances.
Rebelle hired ROCA to work construction on their dispensary in Great Barrington. Rebelle partnered with local community leaders and led a career panel to help educate ROCA members about the fast growing cannabis industry in Massachusetts.
“I think this is the first time our young people didn’t feel judged for smoking pot,” Judd adds. “To see their eyes light up when they realized they could work for Rebelle is why I will continue to work to make our partnership a lasting one.”
Now, months later, Rebelle is launching a one-of-a-kind mentorship program, where ROCA members have the chance to shadow all parts of Rebelle’s cannabis business. Marcus and Charlotte’s goal is to create a talent pipeline that will allow them to hire up to 75% of Rebelle’s workforce from disproportionately impacted communities in Western Massachusetts.
“We want to be a permanent fixture, to provide opportunities to organizations like ROCA and mutually build together,” says Marcus.
BUILDING FUTURES WITH CANNABIS
But Rebelle wants to do more than create jobs. In addition to ambitions for becoming a certified B Corporation — putting them alongside community-minded businesses like Ben & Jerry’s, Allbirds, and New Belgium Brewing — Rebelle is also setting aside a portion of net proceeds to reward employees.
“If we could positively impact one family by giving them the ability to save some money, buy a house, then that’s success for me,” says Charlotte, who first learned the importance of generation wealth while helping families escape homelessness at the Washington, DC non-profit House of Ruth. “Because it’s one thing to make money. It’s another thing to build wealth. And I want to teach people about that. Because when you have capital you start building for your future.”
Everytime you purchase cannabis products from us — either in our Great Barrington shop or on our website — you help Rebelle further its work with ROCA, setting an example for the industry on how cannabis can empower communities and break cycles of poverty for good.