As I walked into the dispensary, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Angie chatting with the owner. After all, she was the one who recommended SPARC to me initially and I even referenced her in my cover letter for a job there.
Standing six feet tall – before the fro – Angelica Coleman is a presence in San Francisco Bay Area, let alone any room she’s in. By day, she’s known as the Executive Director of Reboot America, the creator of #BuyBlack and a member of Essence’s #Woke100. By night, she unwinds like the rest of us – with cannabis.
For a polymath like Angie – my word, not hers – hobbies and interests tend to grow into entrepreneurial endeavors. Cannabis was no exception.
Bored and undervalued at her job working for a startup (stop me if you’ve heard this before), she started looking for other opportunities. She applied for a web developer position at the BASA Collective in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco and was hired on the spot.
“During the interview, it was revealed they needed a lot more than just web development and support,” Angie said. “I started by helping them get the business in order to launch a delivery service and within a month or so I was leading the whole thing.”
As her first experience running a company or organization, there was a bit of a learning curve but Angie took it all in stride. She knew she was developing skills she’d be able to put to use in the future.
“My time at BASA was short, just three months to get the delivery service launched and sustainable,” she said. “I learned a lot about the cannabis business, regulations, what’s legal and what’s not, etc. I also learned a lot about what it takes to lead a team, get everyone on board and motivated, and how to achieve goals while staying sane.”
Sanity is the name of the game for any leader but, in an ever-changing industry like cannabis, it requires some nuance. The energy around cannabis is similar to Silicon Valley in the way it keeps entrepreneurs on their toes.
“I think the cannabis industry is such an untapped market that it has the same ‘wild, wild west’ feel to it as startups do,” Angie said.
“There’s a lot of ambition and dreams, but also a lot of unknown factors that change often. Like the quality of your grow, speed or availability of drivers, user acquisition, etc.”
Unlike startups, cannabis has made equity a vital component of the industry’s growth. As a resident of Oakland, Angie is excited to see how the City’s equity permit program – a percentage of the City’s cannabis business licenses will be allocated to those previously punished for marijuana – is administered and hopes the idea will spread to other regions.
“I’m really excited about Oakland’s equity permits,” she said. “Blacks have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs and it’s only right that if cannabis is going to turn a profit, those arrested for doing this exact thing in the past are included in it.”
Angie sees cannabis as a step in the healing process for those black and brown communities most impacted by prohibition. For now, she believes the most immediate solutions need to be formed around public safety so these communities can be secure enough to take advantage of potential cannabis opportunities when they arise.
“Right now I’m running Reboot America, a nonprofit that builds public safety solutions by connecting technologists and policy think-tanks,” she said. “Public safety is a huge issue, especially right now with rampant police violence and public protests erupting across the country. Our people do not feel safe, and it doesn’t have to be this way.”
When asked if she’d ever re-join the cannabis industry she said, “Absolutely!” Even while working in the nonprofit world, she keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s happening the Bay Area’s cannabis culture.
“I see so much potential in the industry whether it be new products, high-end offerings, luxury clubs and smoke rooms, etc.,” she said. “I know in a short time we’ll all view cannabis no differently than alcohol, and I’d love to support shaping that image and re-branding cannabis in a way that’s accessible and appealing to all.”
Disclaimer: Kyle is the Executive Strategist of Reboot America.