From a cannabis related arrest and conviction at the age of 17, to college graduate, to cannabis business owner, Devin Alexander, the founder of Rolling Releaf shares his journey into the cannabis industry.
Rolling Releaf is a social equity certified cannabis delivery operator currently going through the licensing process in Massachusetts. I have been connected to Devin through social media for a while, and he is one of the names and faces that I continue to see around social media and hear about in my travels around the country. I wanted to learn more about him, his journey, and pick his brain on social equity in cannabis and he agreed to have a sit down.
He talked about his initial dream of working for ESPN; Devin said: “I wanted to get paid to talk about sports”. Devin told me about his college studies explaining that: “after my record became expunged I enrolled in a local community college and received an Associates Degree in Psychology.” And before getting into his career in cannabis and social equity, Devin discussed the skills he gained before cannabis that helped him transition over into the industry.
Please continue reading, to learn more.
A Sit Down and Q&A with the Founder of Massachusetts Based, Rolling Releaf
Please tell me a little about yourself and the type of work you did prior to being in the cannabis industry.
“I was born in Boston,Massachusetts and raised in Quincy,Massachusetts, a suburb 10 minutes outside of Boston. I have always had a passion for cannabis which unfortunately led to my arrest at 17 for minor possession. After graduating College I got a job at a local CVS Pharmacy where I worked as a Pharmacy Technician for 3 years. I quickly recognized how transferable the skills I obtained working as a Pharmacy Tech would be to start working in a dispensary.
I took online classes at Cannabis Training University to make my resume look more attractive, went around and networked at all the local cannabis events and gatherings, and eventually landed a job at a medical dispensary in my hometown of Quincy as a Budtender. I worked my way up to eventually become the Director of Community Outreach and shortly after I enrolled into the Massachusetts Social Equity Program while still working at the dispensary.”
You’ve had some huge recent wins, can you talk about those?
“Some of the biggest wins I have had recently were receiving the award for New England Young Entrepreneur of the Year from the New England Cannabis Convention, getting accepted into the Eaze Momentum Program; which allowed us to receive an Equity Free $50,000 Grant, and locking down a new Headquarters for Rolling Releaf in the city of Newton which is 10 miles west of Boston.”
What should everyone need to keep in mind about the reality of launching a cannabis business as a social equity applicant?
“Starting a business is hard, starting a cannabis business is very hard, starting a cannabis business as a social equity applicant is extremely difficult, but just because something is extremely difficult doesn’t mean it is impossible. Social Equity applicants have valuable resources out there for them, they just have to be ready to put in the work. Being a social equity applicant does not guarantee you a cannabis license.”
In your opinion, is there anything working in any state when it comes to social equity?
“It is still too early to see what is working in the social equity sector of cannabis. There is no one size fits all solution in any state at the moment. What is working for some may not work for others. However, here is what I am seeing in some states that is a good starting point:
- Expedited Licensing Review
- Waived Application Fees
- Free Technical Assistance
- Pro Bono Legal Assistance
- Multi Year Exclusivity for Equity Applicants for certain license types.
What needs a complete delete is having a lottery process for Licenses. That in itself can create a multitude of problems.”
Lowering barriers to entry; this is a huge “it’s not going good” across the board. What needs to be fixed here?
“What needs to be fixed is not requiring applicants to hold down a property while going through the licensing process. Many times these applicants will be paying thousands per month without generating revenue. There have even been cases of people going bankrupt without even getting to sell a single gram of cannabis.”
Can Massachusetts take notes from another state to do better/ can another state take notes from Massachusetts to do better? In what areas/ways?
“Massachusetts can take notes from other states when it comes to cannabis delivery. In Massachusetts, delivery companies have to have 2 drivers in the vehicle at all times when it has product inside. No other state in the country has this requirement. It is very detrimental to the operating costs of the delivery company and is something I hope is addressed in the upcoming regulatory revisions in September. These delivery operations can be performed with just one driver.”
Do you think social equity is failing on purpose and do you believe things are getting better or worse with federal legalization?
“I do not think social equity is failing on purpose. I believe things can get better with federal legalization but any bill MUST have rock solid social equity provisions in it before it is considered by lawmakers. Social Equity operators will not stand a chance competing with major players otherwise.”
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Veronica Castillo is a writer, editor, publisher, and bud & breakfast travel partner from Miami, with a pre-cannabis and psychedelics background in insurance and human resources. Currently, she is a resident of the road covering cannabis, psychedelics, and plant lifestyles all over the U.S and soon abroad. Follow her journey on IG: www.instagram.com/v2_traveling_veg_canna_writer and/or on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vee-traveling-veg-canna-writer/