Social Equity & Education Development™ 

Launched in 2019, Cresco Labs’ SEEDTM initiative, which stands for Social Equity and Educational Development, marked the cannabis industry’s first and most comprehensive social equity venture by a cannabis operator, with a dedicated mission to address the absence of people, businesses, and communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs in the regulated cannabis industry. Cresco Labs recognized the lack of Black and Latino participation in cannabis and resolved to invest both its time and resources to develop tangible pathways into the industry for these communities. SEED’s year-round work focuses on three pillars: Business Development, Education & Workforce Development, and Restorative Justice.

Business Development

Cresco Labs, through SEED, is committed to supporting the growth of BIPOC cannabis businesses. By leveraging the company’s Subject Matter Experts and partnering with community-based business organizations, SEED provides technical guidance and financial assistance, including but not limited to: brand marketing communications, seed-to-sale operations, and diverse supplier opportunities.

Education & Workforce Development

SEED’s Education & Workforce Development efforts continue to build a diverse and inclusive pipeline of individuals and entrepreneurs seeking to develop skills or transfer existing professional experience to successfully enter the cannabis workforce. SEED will continue to collaborate with colleges and universities, workforce development and professional organizations through Cresco Labs’ Illinois Cannabis Education Center to increase access to cannabis education, training, and employment for communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.

Restorative Justice

Decisive action and an unwavering commitment to equity and justice are required to effectively combat the impacts of the War on Drugs. SEED’s holistic approach to restorative justice includes supporting expungement and record sealing, community-based resource fairs, lobbying to change the nation’s drug laws, and working to ensure that no person remains incarcerated for a non-violent cannabis-related conviction. Cresco Labs, through SEED, will continue to support partnerships with restorative justice organizations to amplify their missions and services benefiting people wronged by an unjust system.

Milestones and Achievements

  • Business Development
    • $1.3 million in direct operating capital invested in new Black and Latino dispensary and craft cultivation owners.
    • Over $280,000 in direct spending to cover license and legal consulting fees for social equity dispensary and craft grow license applicants.
    • Over 200 Cannabis related businesses incubated and/or supported through workshops and seminars nationwide.
    • More than 1,000 hours of one-on-one business consulting provided to social equity licensees and ancillary business owners.
    • Over $30,000 in sponsorships supporting the attendance of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) businesses at cannabis conferences in New York, New Orleans, and Chicago.
    • Procured over $11 million goods and services through minority and women owned businesses since 2022.
  • Education & Workforce Development
    • Launched the Illinois Cannabis Education Center (ICEC), the first workforce development and training center created by a multi-state cannabis company that offers a full-scale dispensary training facility for social equity licensees, minority-owned ancillary businesses, college students, and members of communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
    • SEED hosted more than 25 workshops, logging over 200 Subject Matter Expert (SME) employee volunteer hours and over 500 attendees in the ICEC’s first year.
    • To date, Cresco Labs through its SEED Initiative has supported and provided educational resources to 21 community-based organizations, businesses, and colleges through cannabis curriculum development support. SEED has also sponsored workshops, seminars and provided facility tours, and guest lectures which has served over 2,000 attendees.
    • Official Education Sponsor for Green Enterprises’ HBCU College to Career Initiative.
    • More than $200,000 In-kind contributions to partner organizations for usage of the ICEC for community-based programming.
  • Restorative Justice
    • Since the Inception of Summer of Social Justice Campaign launch in 2021, SEED has provided over $735,000 in direct support of restorative justice organizations and sponsored over 60 community justice and resource fairs across 9 states assisting over 8,000 individuals. These fairs consisted of record sealing, expungement, “Know Your Rights” education, and connections to the community health and wellness organizations. Partner organizations engage in legislative advocacy, community education, and reentry services for returning citizens. Our partners included Social Change (IL), Project H.O.O.D. (IL), Case Closed initiative by The Legal Aid Society (NY), Center for Community Alternatives (NY), Nation Outside (MI), Michael Thompson Clemency Project (MI), Florida Justice Center (FL), Philadelphia Fight (PA), The Institute for Community Justice (PA), Cannabis Noire (PA), and The Return to Freedom Project (DC).

Learn more about our direct impact during 2019 and 2020 in SEED's™ first Annual Report detailing these and other efforts dedicated to the program's success.

2023 Focus

Cresco Labs acknowledges the irreparable harm endured by Black and Latino communities due to the nation’s drug policies and the dearth of equality within the cannabis industry. While Cresco Labs has demonstrated an extraordinary pace of growth in the last decade, the state of social equity related to business opportunity in the cannabis industry overall has not kept pace. Economic opportunity particularly for Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities impacted by the war on Drugs remains at the center of SEED’s commitment. Cresco Labs, through SEED, will hold itself accountable to ensure BIPOC representation is equitably manifested within all aspects of the company’s operations and it will continue to support underrepresented communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

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