For years I had plotted getting into the cannabis space but being a native New Yorker we have been oppressed by a police state since the days of Mayor Guiliani. New York was a mess back then and wouldn't be what it is today if not for a major police sweep of everything and anything. Well for those outside of NY, you can't quite imagine what it has been like wire taps on phones, setups designed to put people in jail who are small time cannabis dealers, lives tainted, mine included through minor cannabis related possession offenses. It's been a climate that has made New York one of the most "scared" markets in the cannabis industry.
Growing up on Long Island, being a rapper, pot dealer, and consistent frequenter of the legendary CBGB's I grew up with a unique perspective. I was a Long Island middle class kid more interested in the gutters on NYC then the shopping mall, plastic culture of Long Island. I saw what hardship looked like and basked in the essence of revolution, the underground birth of hip hop and New York punk-rock, also known as New York Hardcore. When you are a youth and this is your church you learn the plights of the unloved, the angst of the oppressed, and on those Saturdays and Sundays spent in underground music venues you saw the successes of those who broke through the oppression and those who still stewed on veritable caste society. It was in this environment that I learned about unity, diversity, and equality for the first time. To be in venues full of society's rejects week-to-week on weekends and then return to the utopia of Commack M-F, it really opened my eyes at how much Commack needed CBGB's and CBGB's needed Commack, or more specifically how much the privileged need the underprivileged. You see even in CBGB's in the punk-rock underground there was a caste society. It was so amazing, in the sacred temple of the unloved, CBGB's even the punks shared the same cliquey behavior I saw at High School. I realized that even the outcasts have egos and flaws of high brow judgementalism as those they considered adversaries.
The last six months have opened up my eyes as to just how basic the human being is. The same sort of behaviors have seen as a 16 year old are repeating as a 35 year old. On one hand I see a like-minded cause, cannabis, being fragmented by smaller, microgoals, such as the interests of business growth, political change, and activism. I see a fragmented industry where any conflicts of interests between the groups cause a vile separation. I see the egos of the leadership in these groups conflicting with the needs of the sick, opportunities for those seeking a career in the industry, and traditionalists, those with experience well beyond my own taking an elitist and entitled mentality.
The need for human beings to look beyond the big picture and only concern themselves with their own wants and needs runs just as rampant in the cannabis industry as any other. Was I a fool to believe this industry could rise above the flaws of man? Perhaps. Perhaps I was an absolute moron to think that this industry would be different then the halls of Commack High or the mosh pits of CBGB. Nonetheless I am reporting this to ensure that it has been officially documented that I, Scott Giannotti am grossly disappointed in the unity within the cannabis industry.
Since beginning the CHA I have been blessed to have built this company thanks to the help of affiliates such as Heather Fahey, Natalie Shmuel, Oleg MaryAces, and Melissa Meyer into a model that is sustainable and impactful. The vision I have for the CHA and the industry is one that requires unity and an agreement to work things out with those in the community you serve. If you are flexing power or ego as a means to stifle growth within this industry than you aren't acting in the best interest of the cannabis plant, its believers, and those who need it to live a normal functioning life, such as myself.
In (6) months we've accomplished the following:
-Grew to 145 affiliates online
-Grew to 3 CHA official members
-Held over 43 meetings and events
-Created original content for lectures, seminars, and educational courses dedicated to cannabis
-Started Cannabis and Hemp TV a video blog
-Were the ONLY business trade group for cannabis represented at several NYC based cannabis events.
-Set up a few table days.
-Held the first "Women's Business Incubator" event in industry history, teaching women how to get government funding for cannabis projects.
-Held the first spirituality based cannabis event in NYC the "Meditate and Meditate"
-Were the first cannabis trade association to get featured in the New York Times and CNBC
-Have been cited as a primary data source.
As we look back on the first six months and close out the year in cannabis, I want to assure all who read this that what the CHA is creating is for all to enjoy. As we project forward into 2015 I anticipate a year of massive growth and impact. While this year I was at conferences explaining what the CHA is and what we do, I expect by 2016 to emerge as the most well known trade association in the industry.
The CHA will achieve this goal through:
-Continued programs that create REAL jobs and companies.
-Continued education that will shape the industry's credential and lift stigmata's associated with cannabis.
-Continued community social events that bring this community together.
-Laser-like focus on gender and cultural diversity.
-Bringing forth volunteer opportunities that impact the community outside of the cannabis industry in the markets we serve.
-Outreach to potential sponsors and public appearances/speeches at cannabis events as well as colleges and other venues.
-Respecting the needs of medical patients, recreational users, and environmentalists while maintaining collaborative relationships with municipalities.