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Waterbury cannabis business helping people cultivate opportunity

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 11:40 PM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) -A new initiative is helping members of the BIPOC community become active members of the cannabis industry.

Zenbarn Farms is partnering with the community to educate people disproportionately impacted by the drug crisis. The initiative, The Cannabis Equity Fund, is all about education.

“When you live it, you don’t always keep the statistics in your head, you just see it happening,” said Marlena Tucker-Fishman. Tucker-Fishman is a co-owner of Zenbarn Farm Cannabis.

She, along with other community partners, are working to get the initiative off the ground. “It’s pretty much to reverse the wrongdoings directed at the BIPOC community and that are still happening,” Tucker-Fishman said. “Four to one black people, BIPOC people, are in jail compared to white and they use it pretty much the same.”

The Cannabis Equity Fund will train BIPOC and those disproportionately impacted by the drug crisis how to cultivate and effectively run a cannabis business. Zenbarn has partnered with Vermont Cannabis Solutions to help with some of the logistics of the initiative. Timothy Fair is a partner there.

“It’s a dynamic concept that needs to be applied to whatever region you’re in. It’s not the same in Barton, Vermont as it is in Chicago,” Fair explained. “This is one of the things as attorney’s we’ve been focusing on, ways to give back to the community, and that’s where the term disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs is coming from.”

Data from a 2018 ACLU report shows black people in Vermont are about 6-times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis than white people. That places Vermont 6th in the country for racial disparities surrounding cannabis arrests. According to the same report, counties with the largest disparities are Washington, Windsor, and Franklin.

In addition to job training and education, Tucker-Fishman says the initiative could help keep people in the state. “Young people and BIPOC people are starting to leave either because of racial tension or because they don’t feel like opportunities are,” she said. “The cannabis business has a wide variety of opportunity for people to be inventive and creative and create diversity in the state.”

She told us a handful of people have already participated in the initiative since it kicked off on Juneteenth, but that she hopes to see it grow. “I think it’s important to empower those people because it affects generations in the communities,” Tucker-Fishman said. “It’s about helping families to heal the trauma from when they’re separated because of the war on drugs.”

The initiative is being funded by a combination of donations and grants. To get involved with the initiative or give, you can visit Zenbarn Farm’s website.

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