Originally published at Vegas Cannabis Magazine
SHWA LAYTART - OCTOBER 1, 2020
A’Esha Goins is someone very important in the cannabis industry you should know. She was nominated for the International Cannabis Business Awards next to Ed Rosenthal, Wanda James, and Snoop Dogg, for being a Substantial Influential Impact on the Cannabis Industry in 2019; a year that Goins put in serious work lobbying for People Of Color (POC) in the Nevada cannabis legislation.
With only so many licenses available, and with so many of them going into the same hands of those with the biggest bank accounts, there has been little if any thought given to underprivileged communities most affected by the War On Drugs. Throughout 2019, Goins strived to get a licensing bill pushed through for delivery companies and at an affordable price so that those boutique mom-n-pop companies have an entry into the cannabis industry.
Working with the cannabis company Ease as a customer, Goins was desperate to get a bill for delivery passed. Unfortunately, her opponents argued the bill down. There were no facts based on reason for their decision, only hypotheses and what-ifs. The fear of Cheech and Chong style ice cream trucks rolling through communities barreling thick plumes of smoke and dishing out weed popsicles. When in actuality deliveries can only carry up to five ounces. “That’s like having two gallons of vanilla ice cream in your ice cream truck. It’s not feasible!” Goins points out.
We already have regulations for the amount of cannabis product that can be in possession at one time. But the current cannabis regulations were not taken into consideration by the legislation. Regrettably, the data on the economic effect of communities with local cannabis delivery companies was also disregarded.
That is, until COVID19 arrived and cannabis was one of the few industries that could continue to do business (and produce tax revenue in an economically horrific time) so cannabis deliveries instantly became okay. In 2019 what cost the Nevada taxpayers’ money and Goins’ time to debate the opponents, and then not be permitted, was then instantly instituted overnight without a what-if or concern in the early months of 2020.
Goins reminds herself daily that legislation needs to be educated on cannabis regulations and not manipulated by greedy cannabis corporations. Especially as the cannabis companies turn into monstrous conglomerates that squeeze out and crush creativity and innovation and replace it with monopolization and standardization.
“Just because I know all the details of the story, doesn’t mean the legislators do. I’ve learned now you can’t have that expectation. Even if that’s all the details to the regulations,” Goins explains. “As a lobbyist, you need to be able to tell the story. You also have to be likeable and willing to win them over.” A skill she comes by naturally.
“That’s one of my grievances about these licenses; If regulations say there aren’t any more licenses hitting the marketplace anytime soon, it doesn’t matter if legislation says they're going to give POC more licenses.” Goins points out. “In Nevada there needs to be a space for small business licenses. The Small Business Association says that 43 percent of all new employment comes from small businesses. So if all cannabis businesses are large corporations, then essentially what has been done is they’ve put a cap on business growth.” An unsustainable problematic issue that is cropping up in all states with legalized cannabis.
The Delivery Bill wasn’t the only bill that Goins was working on.
There was also the Community Reinvestment Bill, which didn’t get approved, and a Small Business Bill, which was met with a compromise with Governor Sisolak, who agreed to create incubators for her Support Business Program. Her goal is to create a Legacy Program where larger cannabis businesses mentor smaller start-ups and help them bring their product to market.
2020 has been a rough year and might be keeping most people down, but A’Esha Goins has continued to fight the good fight in the Nevada cannabis industry.
She has begun working with the Urban Chamber of Commerce to create a model to identify business opportunities in the community. There are about 413 small cannabis support businesses, but the cost is still too high for a support business license, another barrier to entry, and another issue that Goins is working on. She has also focused on establishing her non-profit, Cannabis Equity & Inclusion Community (CEIC), which Goins co-founded in November 2019. CEIC is hearing what the community needs, and wants to develop space so they can germinate partnerships and relationships, continuing to expand the Legacy Program.
CEIC has meetings the first Tuesday of every month. They do workshops on regulations and civic classes. “I had a public defender come in and talk about how to protect yourself.” She has also has legislators talk about policies as they come out. But the way the regulations are currently written and without a government-sponsored social equity program, there are no entry level ways for Goins to direct those trying to establish themselves in the cannabis industry. “And this isn’t just about POC; they’ve created the system so only the one percent can have [cannabis] businesses.”
What does Goins have planned for 2021? “I have my core team, co-founders of CEIC Asia and Ashley. We are going to have a two-day retreat in November. The first day is open to everyone. We’ll talk about the current cannabis policies, what we need to change and how making that change happens. I realized that people in our demographic are afraid of the government because they don’t understand how government works, so it’s going to be a civics class talking about the basics of how policies are made, who changes those policies and how simple it is to actually put your own words into an action. That will be the first day of the workshop and those people who want to go on to the second day of the workshop will dive into more of what lobbying looks like and how they can be a part and how they can support the CEIC.”
One of the policies that Goins already has is BDR360, whose champion in that is assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno. “Our core at CEIC is freedom, equity and opportunity. So what we are going after is youth possession. I’m going to ask that a first possession be reduced from a misdemeanor to a fine and drug abuse counseling.”
“We already know that first possession affects POC communities the hardest. We don’t want juvenile possession to be an incentive to harass black and brown youth. Hopefully, if all that will happen to that youth is counseling, law enforcement won’t waste their time harassing them. If we can minimize putting our youth in the system, we can push back some of those stigmas that hold back progress in our community.”
There’s also a DUI Bill that Goins is working on with the Nevada NORML chapter. “We’re just trying to change the verbiage. You shouldn’t be able to pull someone over and if they have cannabis, they go to jail. What the hell are we doing, that’s just dumb. That, again, is based on race.”
“Lastly, like everyone else, I’m going after Social Use Venues. I’ve already started working on that a little.” Goins feels that with the proper conversation she can get the Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) to undertake the conceptualization and then get it done before legislation, which the AB533 says that the CCB could adopt if they want.
“I’m hoping I can convince the CCB to take it on. I think it would be more of a community project if the CCB was to design the bill versus us writing language for legislation, then asking the legislators to regulate [Social Use Venues]. I really don’t want that. I just have to find a champion for my Social Use Venue Bill.” A bill Goins is currently putting together based on cultural demographics of the communities.
I first met A’Esha Goins when she and my wife were consulting for the same company. We had moved out to Nevada to work with said company and that first week my wife came home more excited about working with Goins than the company that brought us to Las Vegas. Goins is an active-activist who makes change and doesn’t just talk about it. Doing so while maintaining a poise with class as she educates those unaware or misinformed about cannabis, the laws, and the business chaos that surrounds it. Like my wife, I became a disciple of her winsome wisdom.
A’Esha Goins is expanding the possibilities for POC by redesigning, restructuring, and even creating from scratch the Nevada cannabis laws and business opportunities, not just for POC, but for all low-income entrepreneurs that are hoping to start a cannabis company.
A’Esha Goins is developing an industry standard that will have a beneficial impact for generations to come. Not just for Nevadians, but for all states that legalize the use of cannabis; her mission will change the overall course of humanity.