The Inspiring Story Of Dasheeda Dawson, New York City’s First Cannabis Boss

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Dasheeda Dawson did not want to have anything to do with cannabis growing up in East New York, Brooklyn, but that all changed in 2016 when she unexpectedly lost her mother, who used cannabis to alleviate the side effects of her chemotherapy treatment.

According to the New York Times, she has since become a fierce advocate for marijuana legalization in order to address health disparities and repair the damage done to people and neighborhoods that have been subjected to mass criminalization (NYT).

Dawson witnessed the many harms of cannabis prohibition as a Brooklyn, New York native, including unequal enforcement of cannabis laws, which shut down so many lives as well as the criminal justice system.

She began using cannabis after giving birth to her first son to treat fatigue and pain caused by an autoimmune disorder, which doctors later discovered.

She left her corporate job to enter the cannabis industry by first enrolling in an Arizona medical marijuana program. She branded herself as “the Weedhead” and wrote a best-selling workbook for entrepreneurs, How to Succeed in the Cannabis Industry.

She was on a path to becoming a corporate vice president when she decided to reassess her life following the demise of her mother.

According to the New York Times, the 43-year-old has returned to her birth city to lead Cannabis NYC, the city’s effort to support entrepreneurs and workers interested in entering the cannabis industry. Previously, she was in charge of the Portland, Oregon, industry, which included both medicinal and recreational use.

“As the founding director, she will head a small team charged with corralling city services to help build sustainable cannabis businesses, including helping entrepreneurs to apply for licenses, access financing opportunities, and navigate municipal regulations,” according to the NYT.

As deputy director of community and civic life in Portland, Dawson oversaw “cannabis licensing, a community reinvestment grant program, and an emergency financial relief fund” for businesses. She will play an important role in the legalization of cannabis in the state as a director of Cannabis NYC.

“We knew we needed to fill this role with someone who was an expert at everything from the needs of entrepreneurs in this space to the lived experience of New Yorkers harmed by the ‘War on Drugs,’” Mayor Eric Adams, who appointed Dawson, said in a statement.

Dawson graduated from Princeton. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a master’s degree in business administration. She also held corporate management positions at Target and L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company.

According to honeysucklemag, she is also the co-founder of the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM), the Board Chair of the National Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), and the co-founder of the Community Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo (CEASE) with her sisters Imani and Ice Dawson.

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