Desiree Ivey and Cherron Perry-Thomas

Desiree Ivey and Cherron Perry-Thomas are the co-founders of the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities. — PHOTO BY WHITNEY THOMAS

The legal cannabis industry is rapidly growing, but less than 20 percent of all business owners and employees are non-white, according to the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities.

DACO, which was formed to help reduce the stigma around cannabis and introduce opportunities to marginalized communities, wants to change that.

DACO and state Sen. Sharif Street (D-3) will hold a free two-day conference Oct. 19-20 at Temple University to educate communities of color about becoming involved in the flourishing industry.

“As we look at a city like Philadelphia, where the incarceration rates are very high (due to cannabis criminalization), we wanted to introduce people to some of those opportunities ... on the legal side of cannabis and so in doing that we’re bringing experts in the field,” said DACO co-founder and CEO Cherron Perry-Thomas. “As we speak to people, the more we learn the less that they actually know about this industry.”

Perry-Thomas is also the founder of Green Dandelion, a marketing and sales company that promotes natural and sustainable brands to national retailers.

Conference presenters and legislators including Street, Mayor Jim Kenney, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and keynote speaker Chanda Macias will address current laws, opportunities, restorative justice and cannabis reform during panel discussions and workshops. The DACO conference will also feature an exhibition hall and job fair.

“The economic gains, personal freedoms and opportunities for social justice through decriminalization demand cannabis reform,” Street said. “The diversification of the existing medical marijuana industry and the imminence of industrial hemp and adult use are opportunities the commonwealth must be at the forefront.”

DACO co-founder Desiree Ivey said one goal of the conference is to educate people about the use of medical cannabis. Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program includes more than 20 medical conditions, some of which disproportionately impact African Americans such as cancer and sickle cell.

“A lot of the people in our demographic don’t even know that this exists as an alternative form of health care,” said Ivey, who is a medical cannabis nurse and Philadelphia market leader for Women Grow.

“They don’t know how to become a patient and they don’t know how to become a caregiver for their loved ones. We want to make sure that people in our communities know that this is an option.”

Ivey was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 16 and started taking medical cannabis during her adulthood.

“It completely changed my life as it pertains to the medicine that I was taking for years,” she said, noting that her prescriptions were not effectively treating the lupus.

“Cannabis was able to alleviate my inflammation and pain when it came to having my flareups with lupus.”

Now she is gearing up to open her new alternative health care center, Medically Jointed, on Thursday. The South Philadelphia-based center offers services ranging from cannabis education, CBD (cannabinoids) skincare and messages and nutritional counseling. Ivey said she is the only African-American woman in Pennsylvania to operate a business in this space.

For registration information, visit (215) 893-5747

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