What’s better than smoking top-shelf flower? Smoking top-shelf weed that also benefits others in our communities who are in need. In a world where many large corporations pay little to no taxes, and working class families fork over significant amounts of income tax, it’s hard to trust that big business corporations care about those around us. In contrast, the largest multi-state cannabis operator in the US, Curaleaf, is setting an example in the weed industry by helping with clean-up operations, veterans and people who are battling cancer. The company proves that successful national businesses are capable of putting people over profits—a business model that we respect beyond measure.
High Times chatted with Director of Human Resources and Outreach for Curaleaf New York, Lanett Austin, to learn more about what makes the leading brand so generous in a land of avarice.
Tell us about yourself and your position at Curaleaf.
I work as the Director of Human Resources and Outreach for Curaleaf New York and have more than 10 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Within these dual roles, I oversee employee relations and work to develop our robust community relationships. It’s a very unique role, and I believe human resources and outreach roles directly support one another.
Within an HR capacity, I’m focused on diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, and culture within Curaleaf New York. For the outreach portion of my role, I educate our community of patients, practitioners, and caregivers on the accessibility, affordability, and quality of Curaleaf New York’s line of medicinal marijuana products.
Curaleaf’s products are available across the nation. What’s the secret to your company’s ever-growing success?
Curaleaf has built a talented and passionate team driven by the desire to help people through cannabis. We have pulled together experts in consumer packaged goods, agriculture, branding, marketing, compliance and, of course, cannabis. The success of Curaleaf is a direct result of our team—from our pharmacists, to our budtenders, to the people who cultivate and process the plant—who are all aligned by the same mission to educate people about how they can use cannabis to improve their lives.
One of the reasons we love Curaleaf is for your dedication to your community and giving back. We’ve seen your team participate in countless activities including blood drives, donating money to various charities, food drives and so much more. Tell us more about your dedication to giving back locally.
As the largest multi-state operator, we understand that it us up to us to set the standards for community involvement not just for the cannabis industry, but also for any other mainstream local business. For us, that means we meet our communities where they need us most, and every city we operate in has varying needs. In some cities, we’ve participated in local fundraisers for community leaders battling cancer, and in others we’ve organized local trash clean ups. In most of our dispensaries you will see a donation jar dedicated to a local issue, and we’re very proud of our teams for identifying those opportunities to contribute, thanks to their strong relationships with our patients and customers. One of our biggest initiatives is the Veterans Cannabis Project partnership, now active in seven states and launching this week in Massachusetts.
Our most recent big news is that we’ve hired Khadija Tribble as Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, and we couldn’t be more excited to continue building our local and national give back efforts company-wide!
How does focusing on giving back and altruism help change the stigma about cannabis?
The ever-shifting stigma around cannabis is a secondary, although welcomed, reaction to the work we do with our communities. We are so grateful that the regions where we operate have been so welcoming, and we want to give back as a “thank you” for trusting us and making us truly feel like a part of the community. What we’ve seen is that the cities and towns we operate in are willing to welcome our company to local events and fundraisers just as they would any other mainstream business. For us that means we’re able to support charity events, races, donation drives, and blood drives, and show up for our patients and customers beyond the four walls of our dispensary and product experiences. Our goal is to normalize this industry by sharing the human stories behind it.
We are familiar with your support of veterans. Tell us more about your work with Veterans Cannabis Project.
The Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) is an organization dedicated to improving US military veterans’ quality of life through access to cannabis. As an organization, we jump at the opportunity to advocate for legal, unrestricted and supported access to cannabis for veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs. We hear from veterans every day whose lives have changed as a result of their cannabis use, but federal law still makes it illegal for Veteran Health Administration physicians to recommend cannabis as a treatment option, which is something we must change ASAP. As a part of our initiative with VCP, we offer a pre-roll product, with proceeds directly benefiting the work the organization does to support the brave men and women who have risked their lives for our country.
What are the latest happenings for Curaleaf?
Already in 2020, we completed the acquisition of Select, combining Curaleaf’s national retail locations, vertically integrated structure, wellness brand, product range and East Coast hub with Select’s wholesale model, established lifestyle brand and leading West Coast market presence. We entered Colorado with the acquisition of the premium edibles brand BlueKudu and Pennsylvania when we were approved as a Clinical Registrant. We also opened our first adult use cannabis dispensary in Massachusetts.
Later this year, we expect to close the acquisition of Grassroots. When that acquisition closes it will expand Curaleaf’s national presence to include Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ohio, Vermont, North Dakota and Arkansas.
You were recently cleared to open dispensaries in Pennsylvania. What’s your next step in that state?
In February, Curaleaf was approved as a Clinical Registrant in Pennsylvania by the Office of Medical Marijuana at the Commonwealth’s Department of Health. We are permitted to open a cultivation and processing facility and up to six dispensaries in the state, under the Commonwealth’s medical marijuana research program. As a Clinical Registrant, Curaleaf will also support research initiatives into the potential medical benefits of cannabis by providing medical cannabis, expertise and distribution to patients participating in studies.
What unique challenges do you encounter as one of the largest dispensary operators in the US?
The regulations in each state we operate in are very different and we operate in 17 states. Laws around what kinds of products can be sold, how our cannabis is tested and even how we market our stores are unique. That means we must be experts not only on how to best cultivate and process cannabis, but also on the specific rules and regulations everywhere we operate.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of High Times. Check out more here!