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Dismantling Stigma: An Interview with Shanita Penny

shanita penny on qredible broadcast

Shanita Penny is a multifaceted professional and executive with over 20 years of experience helping organizations solve complex issues. She is the Senior Vice President leading stakeholder engagement at Forbes Tate Partners, serves as the Director for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Education and Regulation Center of Excellence, and is the founder of Budding Solutions and co-founder of Dockhouse. 

In this interview, Shanita shares her insights on dismantling the stigma surrounding cannabis through advocacy and driving responsible consumption and equitable opportunities. You can read the interview below or watch the full video on YouTube.

Transferring Skills to the Cannabis Industry

Shanita initially thought her transition into the cannabis industry would be straightforward, leveraging her project management expertise and experience navigating various industries. However, she quickly realized the importance of advocacy alongside business acumen.

“I thought it would be just the same game, new commodity,” Shanita explained. “But I was shaken out of that and quickly understood that I was going to have to spread myself and learn some new things. Advocacy was just as important as understanding the business and being able to navigate and come up with solutions.”

Shanita Penny: Advocating for Social Equity and Criminal Justice Reform

Shanita emphasizes the need to address social equity and criminal justice reform in tandem with cannabis legalization and regulation. “You can’t address one without the other,” she asserts. “If they’re not moving together and in parallel, then you’re going to have an ineffective program.”

She highlights the injustice of individuals being denied employment, housing, and other opportunities due to cannabis-related offenses, even as the industry flourishes. “I’ve seen people not able to get jobs, not be able to rent apartments, and it’s just wrong,” Shanita says. “We’ve created 450,000 jobs to date in this industry when you still got people who want to be employed and are held back by 50-plus years of intentional oppression and criminalization.”

Destigmatizing Cannabis in the Workplace

Shanita’s advocacy extends to destigmatizing cannabis in the workplace. She cites personal experiences of being unable to hire qualified candidates due to cannabis testing policies, even for medical use. “It’s been important for me to advocate for the things that the average person in this country may be dealing with, getting into advocating for access to this industry,” she explains.

Bridging the Gap with Professionals

Shanita recognizes the value of professionals from various industries contributing their skills and experiences to the cannabis sector. “We need everybody to contribute their skills, their experiences, their networks and resources to getting this right,” she says.

However, she acknowledges the stigma surrounding professional services in the cannabis industry, with potential conflicts and revenue concerns deterring some firms from participating. Shanita aims to lead by example, encouraging professionals to understand the opportunities and the industry’s evolution.

Evolving Industry Landscape

Reflecting on her journey, Shanita notes the changing landscape of the cannabis industry over the years. From her first MJBizCon in 2015, where her supply chain and regulatory compliance expertise was initially overlooked, to the growing recognition of the need for such skills as the industry matures.

“Over the next couple of years, you started to hear us talk about supply chain, you started to hear us talk about regulatory compliance,” Shanita recalls. “It’s not only about having the skill set; it’s about being in a place where you’re going to be valued, where you are going to be compensated.”

Shanita’s advocacy and commitment to fostering diversity, inclusiveness, and responsible consumption in the cannabis industry are paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.

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