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Ep.295: Jason Ortiz: MCBA Spotlight

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep.295: Jason Ortiz: MCBA Spotlight

Ep.295: Jason Ortiz: MCBA Spotlight

Jason Ortiz joins us in a two part discussion. First he shares what’s going on in Puerto Rico with his family and generally but he does it third hand as communications systems aren’t up. His information is from relatives of relatives who are taking days at a time to get between cities and relaying information back to family off of the island through what does work in San Juan. He provides a few suggestions of what to do if you feel like doing something. And he shares a potential timeline of recovery. In the second part of the conversation, which actually was recorded first, Jason takes us through cannabis in Puerto Rico. We discuss education and debt and generally try to get a sense of what is possible on and for the island.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Jason Ortiz. Jason Ortiz drives us in a two part discussion. First, he shares what's going on in Puerto Rico with his family and generally, but he does it third hand as communication systems aren't up. His information is from relatives have relatives who are taking days at a time to get between cities and relaying information back to family off of the island through what does work in San Juan. He provides a few suggestions of what to do if you feel like doing something, any shares, a potential timeline of recovery. In the second part of the conversation, which actually was recorded first, Jason takes us through cannabis in Puerto Rico. We discussed education to debt and generally try to get a sense of what is possible on and for the island. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the American economy. That's two ends of the word economy. Jason Ortiz, we have to start by saying

Speaker 2: the last time we spoke, you and I, Jason, uh, was, uh, I guess happier times. Uh, so I just, um, kinda checked in with you and you said that at least your family, you know, everything's okay with you and yours a least close once, but that's certainly not the case for the whole island. Right? Is that fair?

Speaker 3: Yeah, that's definitely true. And I know my family is okay. Sort of secondhand. I haven't actually talked directly to my grandmother or my sister.

Speaker 2: Oh, okay. So then how are you communicating with them? If, if not, uh, speaking directly.

Speaker 3: Okay. Yeah, it's a really interesting thought. I mean, family members will go and contact lots of family and that respond to make sure everybody's okay back to the folks that are in the states. And so I heard from, uh, my, my cousin, that's my cousin who heard from my uncle who told me that my grandma and sister were fine. And so it's folks that are in the sun one area, but do you have like some self service or go into the other parts of the island, checking on people and then coming back and letting people know and it's usually through a system of people either in the states or through the island in Florida.

Speaker 2: Yeah. It's not a huge island, but I haven't been down there. And it's, you know, if you're in a city that isn't San Juan, it's not like it's close there, you know, there's hours and hours of driving. I would imagine that that's got to be happening,

Speaker 3: right? It's 100 miles wide. And so it's about three hours, three or four hours to drive from one side to the other. But now it could take days because the roads are closed, there's trees in the way and there's just all kinds of things going on. And so the trip back and forth is a, a trip, like you have to try to make any, may have some difficulties along the way.

Speaker 2: Right. So obviously the first and most important question is what can we do to help? Um, you know, I had gotten a, uh, the, I guess the, the, uh, the governor's wife or something is, has set up a fund in a couple of my Puerto Rican friends had given me that one and you, you have an alternative suggestion,

Speaker 3: a number of alternative suggestion is always the issue of whether or not the funds will get where they're supposed to go. And so I'm skeptical with the major government sanctioned fundraising efforts because clearly the government on both our side and the Puerto Rican government has not been a very good job so far and so I don't trust them with our dollars. Um, but I mean there's a few things trying to organization that you can relate with that shares your values. I mean I have a few Hispanic Federation is helping us here with the Connecticut Puerto Rican agenda and so you can find more information about that. I kind of kept Puerto Rican agenda Dot com. Um, but there are national org that has been pretty good about bed immediately addressing the issue and helping us with the financial aspect of it. But I encourage folks to find work that makes sense. I think there is a harm reduction organization, so there may be a number of drug policy folks that, that'd be a good fit for them for where they want to send their money, um, and send it directly to those organizations and cut out the middle man.

Speaker 3: I think that's the best way to do it. Also, don't try to donate supplies like water and different things like that because it's incredibly difficult to get anything to the island right now. And so there's warehouses full of water and supplies waiting for transportation. And so I would just use your funding directly and there's actually, I'm a young man, I forget his name at the top of my head, but there's a relief Puerto Rico and like r e l e a f three and then kind of as least male drug policy folks that are canvas industry folks that are, I believe currently there. Um, and they're also a lot, uh, you know, support.

Speaker 1: Jason Ortiz. Jason Ortiz drives us in a two part discussion. First, he shares what's going on in Puerto Rico with his family and generally, but he does it third hand as communication systems aren't up. His information is from relatives have relatives who are taking days at a time to get between cities and relaying information back to family off of the island through what does work in San Juan. He provides a few suggestions of what to do if you feel like doing something, any shares, a potential timeline of recovery. In the second part of the conversation, which actually was recorded first, Jason takes us through cannabis in Puerto Rico. We discussed education to debt and generally try to get a sense of what is possible on and for the island. Welcome to cannabis economy. I'm your host Seth Adler. Check us out on social with the American economy. That's two ends of the word economy. Jason Ortiz, we have to start by saying

Speaker 2: the last time we spoke, you and I, Jason, uh, was, uh, I guess happier times. Uh, so I just, um, kinda checked in with you and you said that at least your family, you know, everything's okay with you and yours a least close once, but that's certainly not the case for the whole island. Right? Is that fair?

Speaker 3: Yeah, that's definitely true. And I know my family is okay. Sort of secondhand. I haven't actually talked directly to my grandmother or my sister.

Speaker 2: Oh, okay. So then how are you communicating with them? If, if not, uh, speaking directly.

Speaker 3: Okay. Yeah, it's a really interesting thought. I mean, family members will go and contact lots of family and that respond to make sure everybody's okay back to the folks that are in the states. And so I heard from, uh, my, my cousin, that's my cousin who heard from my uncle who told me that my grandma and sister were fine. And so it's folks that are in the sun one area, but do you have like some self service or go into the other parts of the island, checking on people and then coming back and letting people know and it's usually through a system of people either in the states or through the island in Florida.

Speaker 2: Yeah. It's not a huge island, but I haven't been down there. And it's, you know, if you're in a city that isn't San Juan, it's not like it's close there, you know, there's hours and hours of driving. I would imagine that that's got to be happening,

Speaker 3: right? It's 100 miles wide. And so it's about three hours, three or four hours to drive from one side to the other. But now it could take days because the roads are closed, there's trees in the way and there's just all kinds of things going on. And so the trip back and forth is a, a trip, like you have to try to make any, may have some difficulties along the way.

Speaker 2: Right. So obviously the first and most important question is what can we do to help? Um, you know, I had gotten a, uh, the, I guess the, the, uh, the governor's wife or something is, has set up a fund in a couple of my Puerto Rican friends had given me that one and you, you have an alternative suggestion,

Speaker 3: a number of alternative suggestion is always the issue of whether or not the funds will get where they're supposed to go. And so I'm skeptical with the major government sanctioned fundraising efforts because clearly the government on both our side and the Puerto Rican government has not been a very good job so far and so I don't trust them with our dollars. Um, but I mean there's a few things trying to organization that you can relate with that shares your values. I mean I have a few Hispanic Federation is helping us here with the Connecticut Puerto Rican agenda and so you can find more information about that. I kind of kept Puerto Rican agenda Dot com. Um, but there are national org that has been pretty good about bed immediately addressing the issue and helping us with the financial aspect of it. But I encourage folks to find work that makes sense. I think there is a harm reduction organization, so there may be a number of drug policy folks that, that'd be a good fit for them for where they want to send their money, um, and send it directly to those organizations and cut out the middle man.

Speaker 3: I think that's the best way to do it. Also, don't try to donate supplies like water and different things like that because it's incredibly difficult to get anything to the island right now. And so there's warehouses full of water and supplies waiting for transportation. And so I would just use your funding directly and there's actually, I'm a young man, I forget his name at the top of my head, but there's a relief Puerto Rico and like r e l e a f three and then kind of as least male drug policy folks that are canvas industry folks that are, I believe currently there. Um, and they're also a lot, uh, you know, support.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. And you had sent me a text with a, uh, another, uh, suggested website as well. Right?

Speaker 3: Um, and that will join our fundraiser that we're operating here.

Speaker 2: That's it. That's the one. And you can also,

Speaker 3: you and I to the number of four, one, four, four, four and are bringing to the Hispanic Federation donate page.

Speaker 2: Okay. And that, that reminds me of, was that salt and pepper I ty or was that something like that? It might've been en vogue, um,

Speaker 3: before my time, but

Speaker 2: fair enough. So you've, we've just a proven the fact that, uh, you and I are not the same age anyway. The other thing, uh, that was, that has come up because of this whole thing. It, it was just kind of a seemingly a throwaway line and um, you know, the bond markets responded. We're kind of talking in real time here. So, so, um, uh, what, what is the feasibility possibility based on your understanding of what actually happens with, uh, you know, I'm just a relieving the debt.

Speaker 3: No, what he's talking about, he can't just worry about the data. Um, that would be nice, but he can't really gonna come down to the bond holders themselves either really pushing the deck because at this point they're not gonna get their money back or have a very, very long time or no happen through the courts. And so during the court process when they have to analyze a Puerto Rico's assets are in order to pay things back, that is going to be next to negative 50 billion now. And so I think a lot of the bondholders are folks that are holding the data. I'm gonna cash out for pennies on the dollar because they're not going to get anything more than that amount of how they go about doing it. The money isn't there.

Speaker 2: Are we tight? So indirectly it might be relieved, is that what we're saying?

Speaker 3: Um, yeah, they almost voluntarily currently owned the debt will have to just give up on it. Um, the other process they can do is try to get that money, but they'll have to go through the court and then articles to the court asset, the actual assets to liquidate or whatever. And at this point in Puerto Rico doesn't have them and so they would just be fighting for a very long time over crumbs is. I think what's going to happen is they will just write it off.

Speaker 2: Hmm.

Speaker 3: You had trump can just say we're going to wipe off the debt and it just happen.

Speaker 2: And then that just, that just goes because podcast land knows no time later in this conversation, which happened before we're speaking now you will tell us about the debt and uh, you know, give us a little bit more background. All right? So basically what I'm hearing is choose an organization that, you know, love and trust and give that organization money directly. Uh, don't go through a third party. Don't try to Kinda, you know, send supplies, do not do that. Actually send cash to an organization that knows what to do with that cash. Is that, is that a fair?

Speaker 3: Okay. The best way forward, especially in the short term, think long term, it's going to be programs that pop up to help move people to rebuild. Things like habitat for humanity are going to be important to Puerto Rico starting and so in the medium term, those bigger programs that folks can actually deal with it, but right now if you want to help the best thing to send my deputy folks that are on the ground, um, and if you want to make sure you can see where every penny that your daughter's going to go, then I would wait a little bit because the need right now is for food and water, but the need for reconstruction is going to be much bigger. And the medium term supporter. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Fair enough. So like, go down there as a human is, is, you know, kind of point number one if you want to do something right now and if you

Speaker 3: money is right now and then step two is go down to me.

Speaker 2: Alright, fair enough. Money and then, uh, go down there. All right. Uh, so obviously we've got a long while until this, uh, kind of turns itself around. Have you heard any reports of it improving in any way yet?

Speaker 3: Uh, no, I can't say that I think things are getting worse, quite honestly, I'd be the initial sort of diesel Sherman's that we're going to. Hospitals in the century are starting to run out and so we were at a crunch would actually ever being fueled different places and the fuel even just for like cars or gasoline or gas stations. Yeah. This is a generator that powers the oxygen tanks and hospitals. Right. Right. And so hospitals are having people die because we don't have electricity to keep them alive essentially for the various things that we need and it gets much worse. Right? Like if you don't have electricity and you'll have a seat and you don't have a way to refrigerate anybody that does die afterwards. And so there's all kinds of health consequences there and to come from animals being the road or different things. And so I don't see it getting much better. Um, it definitely doesn't look like fema is stepping up their game. They brought in some more military folks and hopefully that'll work. But if we have any indication from our commander in chief about how they feel uplifted eco, um, I don't think it's going to be improving in the short term of the people, a demand, a much stronger response that we're getting right now.

Speaker 2: I'm with you there and you know, that's why again, on this platform we're trying to do anything and everything that we can do. But I will say I remember from Katrina when there was that a general, I think his last name was Alan, if memory serves correctly, once that military did take over and Katrina then stuff did start to turn around. So at least reading from recent history that say a positive thing that could happen.

Speaker 3: Yeah. Say That is a positive

Speaker 4: development. We haven't seen the results from that positive development yet. The general that did show up, he did come in and do all this is one of the worst situations I've ever seen. And so that was a, I guess reassuring, right? That at least days, uh, he moved his situation seriously. Exactly. But yeah, no, I do think our military is physically capable of pulling this up. I do think it is more a lack of leadership at the very top it says do this, right. Like I fully believe our general just given the orders to do certain things will accomplish it flawlessly. That's why I get so frustrated not happening because they know that it's possible for it to happen. Like we're seeing our federal government, our senators, our senators are having trouble figuring out how to get the price of the island, but our celebrities are not. This is Bizarro land, right? Like j Lo and Daddy Yankee have gotten water to people in these cities,

Speaker 3: but our federal government is struggling to do the same thing. So it's rather unfortunate. Yeah.

Speaker 2: All right. Well, um, it is good to talk to you. It is good to hear. I guess third or fourth hand that uh, your closest family members are at least. Okay. Um, you know, find the charity that you know is doing good things. Give them money now and if you want to go down there, go down there. But the reconstruction is going to be long and difficult it sounds like.

Speaker 3: Yes, for sure. And we're going to have been eating a lot of help to hopefully bring in a lot of solar power to the country because even as reestablishing electricity is going to be a monumental task on its own, it was already not that great when the grid was up and so they have to repair it. A number of power lines. But I think, you know, this is where know the cannabis industry can help, right? Like there's a tremendous amount of potential investment that could happen on the hall a year and we would love it if we could bring cannabis to Puerto Rico to help with that reconstruction.

Speaker 2: Perfect. All right my friend. Well we will take a break here and after this I will talk to you before this.

Speaker 3: I love it. I look forward to hearing how great of a job.

Speaker 2: President of the Connecticut. Okay. So this agenda of which you speak, tell us, tell us more.

Speaker 5: First thing is, I love the name because it immediately puts me where I'm like, no, I mean the Connecticut Puerto Rican agenda is a chapter of the National Puerto Rican agenda, which is itself a coalition or alliance of elected officials, community groups, faith leaders, individuals and organizations that are mobilizing the Puerto Rican diaspora for better outcomes report weekends, both here but. And of course specifically on the island, we actually do have congressional representatives here in the states and so we have the ability to lobby and push for things that folks on the island cannot. And so my opinion, we have a moral obligation then to use that part of what we have as citizens to help the island.

Speaker 6: I just heard about a vote for statehood, which was a landslide.

Speaker 5: Right? Right. And that's. So the thing with the vote, like I disagreed with the strategy to boycott, but there was a boycott, right. And so we're not going to vote for. We're not going to participate. And so that's where the 97 percent is the. Essentially the other party, the Democrats have part of Puerto Rico to other people to stay home strategically. Right in the moment it's smart because half of you are going to stay home anyway and so you can declare victory of all those folks that stayed at home. However, what I said from the beginning was, but then they're just going to claim was overwhelming. Victory was this dumb, like we should try to win this. And so you know, which is exactly what's happening. Rasa Yoga says we won overwhelmingly. You don't count that. Stay home. And I was like, he right

Speaker 6: is absolutely right. There's 50 percent of the United States of America and you know, the current states of America I should say, did not vote in the presidential election. And so, you know,

Speaker 5: opera centers that support trump, but he is still precedent. Yes. And so saying like, we're going to boycott. So at NASA is both sides declared victory, right? They were like, oh, it was the lowest turnout ever. The boycott one and other folks were saying 97 percent. So we won in reality and my political understanding of it, it doesn't matter at all because it's all a congressional, you know, folks in the House and assignment which are never gonna let that happen. Right? Like the idea that we're going to let 3 million Spanish speaking Latinos who are about to go bankrupt at a scale never before seen as a state now is not going to happen. Right. And so I was like, yeah, can you organize it will help, but it's not going to happen if someone that stateside and knows how the politics we're here.

Speaker 6: Understood. Well what about this bankruptcy stuff that we see and read about what's going on there?

Speaker 5: So it's not technically bankruptcy. Right. So what ended up happening, Puerto Rico does not have the ability to declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy reserved for cities, right? Like there hasn't been a state, there has been studies that have been close, but there hasn't been one that actually like declared bankruptcy officially. So Puerto Rico is neither a city neuro status. It might have been its own country. Right. But I mean 79 municipalities. Right. And so what happened was Brittle Massa, which is the bill that got passed that was going to do all kinds of different things to try to basically stop the debt payments, right? So it's like you don't have to pay for the next six months or so and we can get things together, but there's all this other shit you got to do. Right. And so in that bill, which I actually literally just shows you how serious I am, where do we go?

Speaker 5: Like I had bill in my desk. Right, okay. And so it said, you know, you have to try to do all these things, but if you can't figure it out, you have to do chapter three of Promessa, which is kind of like bankruptcy, but it's completely made up. Right. So like the process is brand new and there's a bankruptcy judge from New York, New York state that is coming to Puerto Rico to oversee it, but it's not really bankruptcy. It's just kind of like bankruptcy. Um, and so we don't actually know what is going to happen. Like the judge that decides it will be setting the precedent for future situations of a similar thing. And so it's, it's, it's a lot of it is in her hands. Part of it is how much land has to get sold off, you know, how much the pensions right may or may not get reduced. Um, yeah, all that kind of stuff. And also how much the bond holders are going to lose, right? Like both sides are going to lose a lot because there just isn't $80,000,000,000. Um, and so the judge decides who's going to get through it and more basically in this process.

Speaker 6: How did we know that? I'm asking one man, one man's opinion. How did we get here though? What, what happened?

Speaker 5: Well, I mean, uh, in 18, 98, the United States made the Puerto Rico colony, right? So from that point forward, the economics are never going to work. Right? And so it's just impossible to do it. And so, I mean, the short answer is a capital appreciation bonds starting in the 19 fifties essentially when they enacted inactive. The second new deal for Puerto Rico essentially writing, so invest a bunch of money, we're going to build highways and shit like that, right? Those bonds would be illegal if they did a title loan in the same process, right? Like we wouldn't be here, but basically you get the money and you can't pay on the principle for 50 years. Right? And so interest accumulates and accumulates and accumulates and then boom, 50 years later you hit mid two thousands, right? So the governor at that point said, you know what, let's just take out more loans to pay for the old loans. Right? And everything will be fine. I don't have to worry about it. We'll kick the can down the road, you know, 10 years from now. However that was like 2005, 2008 US economy collapses, right? And so any kind of growth in Puerto Rico that they wouldn't have gotten tanked immediately. And so they kind of move money around for a few years until it just became, you know, astronomical. And now, now we're at that point.

Speaker 6: Alright. So I guess maybe final question on Puerto Rico is if statehood isn't the answer and the current construction is not the answer, once we do get this 80 billion figured out, what is the answer?

Speaker 5: So I actually think it is impossible to figure out the $80 million and the only thing that'll happen that can help the people for us to declare independence because the $8,000,000,000 is held by the United States right now. The colonial government of Puerto Rico is an entity of the United States government. If Puerto Rico declares independence to become a new entity, right? And per the UN law. This is totally allowed for a colony to do that. And so all of that debt would go to the United States. We would tell the creditors and you got to go talk to Donald Trump. He owes you money and he'll declared bankruptcy on your debt for you, but has nothing to do with us. We're the new country of Puerto Rico and I think that's the only way it can get solved. There just isn't $80, million dollars worth of wealth on the island. Even if you did sell all the beaches, so I think it's going to be a lot of back and forth and eventually we have to declare independence.

Speaker 6: Interesting. And this is a new issue being that the loans kind of came do about 10, 15 years ago. So that's why this is happening now type of thing.

Speaker 5: I'm sure. Yeah. Yeah. The short answer I would say yes, it's loans on top of loans. It was also for doing your in the nineties he also got another heat, so on Wall Street they actually said this is the greatest thing ever. This is the biggest bond we've never issued anywhere. And it was like, Yay, Puerto Rico, everybody killed. You know that just saying you the biggest debt ever. Like I said, you issued that many bonds isn't a thing to celebrate. That was the nineties and then so now those loans also came at the same time as the 50 year ones and so he would go and he did that. I'm under a different law that allowed all of the triple tax exempt bonds. Right. And so that was originally in the investment money came in was they paid no federal taxes, no Puerto Rico taxes and income taxes on these bonds. And so he put all that money in to build all of the,

Speaker 5: you know, infrastructure, whether that'd be like water or electricity, you know, like all that kind of stuff. And also when the, uh, chemical manufacturing companies were coming over, so it was like, we'll make all these jobs, you'll borrow all this money and everything will be great. And they're like, yeah, but we do know we have this 40 year bonds back here. And they're like, yeah, this time will pay for, it, will generate all this economic activity and then will be fine. And then 2008 happened and then they just kinda like delayed the explosion there for like eight years. And to a certain point where it just went by, he came in, he literally says, we can't pay this,

Speaker 6: this isn't gonna, this isn't gonna go well. So that's Puerto Rico on the whole. What about cannabis in Puerto Rico?

Speaker 5: Ah, so that's really interesting. So cannabis in Puerto Rico I think isn't a much better shape than, uh, the academy generally and add a Puerto Rican activist that is also a cannabis activist. I see it as a major way that Puerto Rico can pull itself out of debt. Right. And so, um, there is medical marijuana happening and being produced right now. What's, what he goes through this legal, um, the current governor is a bit conservative but will be technically he's a Democrat here. Um, and so he is supportive of medical. He has him. Um, he does not support recreational publicly, but he hasn't also been very aggressive on it, right? Like he's just medical school and that's about it for me. And so they will be expanding things moving forward. And one of the cool things about Puerto Rico is actually the universities will be growing some of the cannabis and so I think it's the only spot that is doing that, you know, recently, and I mean maybe Kelly hasn't moved forward and things like that, but they'll actually was part of the law. The University of Puerto you go will produce cannabis and be part of the medical system. And so it is a growing space for sure. Obviously it is a huge spot for the black market of cannabis, so over 50 percent of the economy of Puerto Rico's in the black market. And so being able to move that into the above ground literally revolutionized Puerto Rico's

Speaker 6: interesting. So look at that. Here's cannabis one more time. Kind of trying to save the day,

Speaker 5: right? I've been doing it here in Connecticut and Puerto Rico. The same argument like anyone else have a revenue generating option that will not cause people to get furious with us? No. No. Okay. Well I have one. And so we're talking millions if not billions of dollars in revenue. Right? And so it is a, uh, a good position to be in, right. To be the cannabis activist that also understands, you know, the, the local situations because it is a rare solution to bring in revenue for states and cities and you know, all the above.

Speaker 6: There you go. And it's proven. It's proven as you say. Right? Yup. So that brings us to your work at, uh, the minority cannabis business association. Hey, thanks for being the policy chair, right?

Speaker 5: Yup. Yup. Absolutely. I am. And now this is my second term as policy chair.

Speaker 6: There we go. And so I think the, probably the, the biggest thing that you've worked on is the bill, right? Yeah. The bill language. How do we speak about this? What do we say?

Speaker 5: So, I mean the bill itself, the model legislation for state based legalization is a, I like to say it as a buffet of good ideas that anyone could come to, to look at if they wanted to figure out how they could address equity in the cannabis industry. Um, it needs like actual policy specifics. You can go to our bill and find lots of different things, discuss whether it's, you know, housing rights or a parent rights or you know, folks that are worried about their school housing and there's just lots of different pieces in there to help protect individuals that may be um, or previously targeted by law enforcement that under a legal market, all of those different regulations should also shift. And so an example I always say is housing for university students, um, if we're now in a legal state, students should not be arrested and thrown out of housing for doing something that is now legal.

Speaker 5: However, the policies themselves will remain under prohibition until we change up. And so what we want to do is do it all in the legalization bill and we have a comprehensive bill rather than this sort of one line that we've been doing when it comes to ballot measures. And I understand why we do that with valid measures, but now we have the experience of other states and we can be more thorough about it. So@minoritycannabis.org you can find the bill and look up the specifics. Um, and that was definitely our crown jewel of our first year was putting this bill together. The process was fantastic and I got to give a huge shout out to our members shaleen title and was the previous coach air. And I came by in Calabar, use the current, my current coach heir for helping me put it on it would not have been possible without those two.

Speaker 5: And I'm sure a lot of your fans know both of their names, probably pretty well and of course, and so, uh, yeah, they were definitely part of it. We brought 20 to 25 people together to really get down into the details of it and then as a board we had it out for, you know, a 10 hour meeting where we went line by line and said, know how does this affect business owners, how does this affect consumers? Is this language really necessary? And so it was definitely a thorough process. I am very, you know, confidence in our work is good, you know, not everything that I wanted was in it or anything that anyone wanted was in it really. But I think the final product has been super useful and definitely opened up doors for us as an organization and as an individual. Um, once you put it out.

Speaker 6: Yeah, no, that process, culminating in that 10 hour meeting that you speak of was my first kind of foray into, you know, any policy of any kind. I, I had been to kind of, uh, you know, the Department of, uh, uh, the Colorado, a medical department, uh, hearings. I'd been to hearings, you know, I'd been to hearings at both, uh, you know, a city and state level. Uh, but I'd never been a part of crafting language or crafting a model bill. You of course had. Right. So let's, let's go all the way back where you're from, Connecticut. Is that true?

Speaker 5: Yep. I am originally from Norwich Canada. I was born in New London, Connecticut, but I was, I was, I grew up in the burbs and so it a, a Connecticut, Puerto Rican. I grew up in the suburb.

Speaker 6: So that sounds extremely boring. When did you, kind of,

Speaker 5: young people do when they live in the burbs of Connecticut? It's, what'd you say? So you can imagine what a lot of us young people who are living in the burbs of candidate.

Speaker 6: Oh sure. Exactly. It's, it's find something that, uh, is fun or different. And so, I guess when did you find that, you know, was, was policy something that you graduated to early on or was that an eventual thing?

Speaker 5: Um, well, policy became an issue to me when I got arrested. That's basically when I was in high school, um, I was smoking with some friends off campus and the like a construction worker or somebody called the school and said, hey, these kids smelled like marijuana. So as soon as we stepped foot on campus, boom, security guards came and grabbed us and they told us the cops are coming to pick us up. And so I had no idea like what was going on. Um, they searched my bag, I had a little bit more. And so it was this big thing. But at the minute, I mean, like I didn't quite realize how serious it was when it happened. Um, and I thought like, okay, I was going to get suspended for a couple of days, like whatever. And so when I actually had my here and they told me I was going to get suspended for 45 school days.

Speaker 5: And so that meant no weekends, no vacation, none of that counted, right? If there was a snow day, my return date got pushed back. And when I saw that, I also saw the various punishments for other things. Right? And so alcohol was three days getting in a fight with five days. And so I asked the little group of administrators, so if I had punched the security guard in Iran, you're telling me what it got five days. But because I sat there and just talk to you, I got 45 technically yes. But like, you shouldn't do that. I was like, this is crazy. How is this? And so immediately I was like, Huh, some rules really don't make sense. And so for me, luckily I had a strong family, like my mom hasn't kept slamming, you know, made sure I did all my work. Um, and so I never like lost track on that sense. Um, but luckily at time also the Internet was a thing. Um, and so I started to do research and all that time, right? I now eight hours a day, every single day where I needed to fill my time and I was lucky enough to really like reading and so I started to read a little bit about the issues and that's what I learned the term, the war on drugs. Right. So the school to prison pipeline. Right. So when I learned those two terms, I was an activist on those issues ever since then.

Speaker 6: So you know, war on drugs, we've spoken about that at length and you know, how a disproportionately that kind of made its way through society as far as the school to prison pipeline. Talk about that. What I, you know, I don't think that we've put those words to this podcast. So share.

Speaker 5: Sure. And I think, you know, if folks are aware of students for sensible drug policy course and that definitely, you know, go SSDP.org, you'll get all the information on the school to prison pipeline. You could ever walk with the school to prison pipeline is a term that describes the way that we have designed our educational systems that will guarantee a certain number of students will end up in our criminal justice system. And so, so put it into perspective. Jails will often look at third grade graduation rates to know how many beds in a given municipality or a county, um, they can expect to be full moving forward and that's because if you have a certain number of dropouts, those folks, a certain number of those are going to end up in criminal activity in a certain number of those are going to end up in jail.

Speaker 5: Right? And so we know that the way that we designed the schools, as those numbers shift, we are either creating a bigger pipeline to the prisons and we're going to have more people going to present or we can shrink, you know, those numbers and shrink that pipeline. So less people end up in prison. And so things like mandatory suspensions for marijuana possession, right? If you're suspending a fifth grader, right? That is the number one way to per to predict someone will have an addiction issue or a criminal activity is that they have been isolated for a very long time and that's the suspensions do right. You're literally using isolation as a punishment and so those are choices that we make, right? We really harsh on drug crimes or that we're going to say, um, you know, young boys are going to get 10 times a penalty of a young girl.

Speaker 5: Right? Like these are all decisions that we make along the way that create this process. Also funding certain schools versus not funding other schools, putting cops in certain schools versus not putting them in other school. Australia. These are all decisions and this huge ecosystem that schools have to decide on their student codes of conduct that will either create a school to prison pipeline or create a school to college pipeline and you can see the school, it's right. You can see how much effort is put into these various things. Some schools are much more about punitive punishment, do what we say or we'll kick you out. Other schools are incentivizing learning. Right? And so as an activist, when you have to be aware of what situation we're operating in and how we can make, make it better for all involved. And I went to a particularly unique to go north street academy.

Speaker 5: That was massive. It was 2000 students really. It was a pretty wealthy school. Like we had a lot of resources we had in a museum on our campus and so it was clear that some of the students were getting put out, right? Like the problematics news are getting pushed out. I was in this weird space of being really smart and all my tests were getting in trouble a lot. Right. So I wasn't really getting, I didn't feel pushed out because I lift a test scores, right? Like I was one of those people that made our standard is standardized test numbers look better. Right. But not everybody was like that. And so I could see I was being encouraged. Right. And I just think made this one mistake or whatever. Right. Were other folks were pushed into like a adult education programs and things like that. Right. And if you can look at where the students go, you can predict how many people will end up in prison.

Speaker 6: So incentivizing knowledge, incentivizing information, incentivizing intelligence, wha, what are some of the ways that our educational systems can do just that?

Speaker 5: Wow. Well, I mean there's a number of those. I think part of it is to be a little bit more dynamic and what we're considering intelligence. I think about arts and music and things like that and now also coding, right? And so there's a huge amount of a computer knowledge I think that is just going to dwarf a lot of knowledge that we've had before and learning how to ask the right questions of our googles and things like that. But also parse through what is relevant content, you know, what content is clearly just like, you know, made up and not necessarily based on the fact and uh, which, which of it is just competing opinions that were trying to decide. It's not a factual statement, it's just somebody's opinion and knowing how to differentiate between the two. So, you know, there's those kinds of programs.

Speaker 5: But for me, you know, it was really like folks said you should go to ap biology, I think you would do really great in that or you know, take 'em this other person would like you to help with their newspaper. Right. And so I was just giving a lot of encouragement as far as the various things that I could try and I actually had my biology teacher constantly telling me a brain is a terrible thing to waste because I was always coming to his class late. So I don't know, it was just one of these things that I felt like generally in the schools I was encouraged to learn more and dig a little deeper until it was about school policies themselves.

Speaker 6: So totally understood. And you know, so an engaged educator, there is nothing more valuable than that. Short of that though, you know, you say structurally if we put a uh, if we put a cop in the building in the school, that's a bad thing. What, what about, what about incentivizing information? What structural things can happen, you know, besides depending on engaged educators, are there easy answers there or, or not necessarily.

Speaker 5: There's easy answers that aren't necessarily achieve answers like Brent literally cut the class size and half instantaneously. You will see dramatic increases in all factors for all students because they get personal, right? And so that's the important thing for students. Motivation is that are they getting personal attention and right. Some students will get that at home, right? And so you won't see the outcomes as much in the classroom, so students will not. And there's all varying degrees of the, of all of the above. If one teacher, and I've been an afterschool teacher, so I understand this a little bit. If you give one person 25 fourth graders, the best that they can do is make sure nobody,

Speaker 6: nobody dies,

Speaker 5: right? Yes. Yes. And so when I used to tell parents, right? Parents all have kids, you know, two to three kids maybe like that, I would say, how many kids are too many for a sleepover. Right? And they would be like, well, I mean I don't know, five. And I was like, think about that as a teacher with 25 of them and we're cutting, there's a student assistance, right? And so that's another big piece I think is actually making sure that teachers have assistance and I think good teachers can do well in big groups if they can remove a particular student that's having a particular moment from the whole group, right? Because then that problem going to be pushed aside and they could continue with the lesson if the main teacher has to stop and now all the other students have to wait for them to handle this one. You turn one problem, it's a 24 instead. I think class size is one thing, but on top of that. But you know, student teachers in classrooms that spend two hours talking to a kid, why he was sad that day, right? Like it's very necessary for that kid to process that. But one teacher in a classroom of 20 kids can never do that for any of them. And now you're guaranteeing needs will be unmet.

Speaker 6: And so now to shift back to the minority cannabis business association policy and that model bill, if we can, you know, in closing kinda share the tent Poles, obviously we're not going to go through the whole bill, but the main basics that really should be taken into account by any municipality, what would they be in your opinion?

Speaker 5: So I think, you know, some of the big buckets, you know, what the number one thing is, barriers to entry, right? And so considering what policies are being put in place to actually prevent people from entering. And so that could be really high application fees, it could be denial based on criminal history, it could be incredibly restrictive number of licenses, right? And so one of the big things that MCPA says that a licensed caps are the death of equity in the industry because if you have a low number of people that be in the industry, the value of those licenses go up, the value of pumping lots of money to get those licenses go up and it makes it so smug and folks just can't compete in that market. So number one, don't put a limit, right? Like make sure that every locality can decide if they want one or how many they want and lead.

Speaker 5: But leading up to that community, some communities need economic opportunity more than others. We shouldn't let the suburbs that are doing just fine financially tell the urban centers that they cannot enter the cannabis industry because they're scared of plants, right? Like, it's, it's really, it's killing us right now where we, and this is happening in Connecticut, that we have 169 towns and you know, five major cities. But all these towns are so afraid cannabis and you know, for realistic or unrealistic reasons that they're denying millions of people economic opportunity. And so I think local control is another big piece of what we, what we want to do. And then also you, the second piece is when you decide that you are going to collect revenue, where's it going to go? Right? Making sure that it's going to communities that have been affected by war on drugs is when a job program is going to help people start businesses.

Speaker 5: You know, like we can make those decisions on where the money's going to go very strategically and so I think that's a big part of it, you know, and the last piece is just making sure that we're undoing the harm we did with the war on drugs. So expunging people's records, making sure that communities that have been ravished, you know, get some, some support moving forward, um, and looking in your particular town like how many people were arrested for cannabis. It's going to be thousands and thousands of people, I think that is. Um, and so taking a town by town, what happened in your town and what can we do to rectify it? I think that's the best way to move forward.

Speaker 6: There you go. So, you know, you're kind of proving you're a policy bone fee days here. Not only are you sharing with us what, what is important, but you're doing it very concisely.

Speaker 5: Well, when you learn how to do, I've given testimony in two minutes and if you do over and over again, start with your words. Yeah, there we go. And I think people internally, like they understand what we're trying to do, right? And they want the details maybe. But I think the important thing is, you know, as a group, we know that the cannabis industry will be stronger. The more diverse it is. We're all gonna have to fight, you know, trump's crackdown. We're all going to have to fight the justice department. And so I think the bigger and stronger the cannabis industry is, the better it is for everybody.

Speaker 6: Amen. I've got three final questions for you. I'll tell you what they are and then I'll ask you them in order. What has most surprised you in cannabis? What has most surprised you in life? And then on the soundtrack of Jason Ortiz's life, one track, one song that's got to be on there. But first things first, what has most surprised you in cannabis?

Speaker 5: Oh, that's a good one. Um, what has most surprised me in canvas? I would say the speed in which people of color in our issues made it to be very mainstream. I, I knew what I was getting into when I first started with Shalena and getting an FCPA, but the support was there from white folks alike and now in the media, supportive what we were doing and folks are listening. So the speed at which the cannabis industry was able to adapt and, uh, ensure that our voices were being heard. You know, it's not perfect by any means, but I was surprised at how successful we are so quickly.

Speaker 6: Yeah. It's better than nothing, right?

Speaker 5: Yes, for sure. Yup. And like the actual power of the events, right? Like, I don't know, I felt like the movement was much smaller than it really was. And then like we have our fundraisers right in the event we had and it was just packed like everywhere. And so I thought we were going to need to do more convincing. It was clear that the need was there. Um, and the, the skill set and people were there, we kind of opened up the door and made the space for it. But I was surprised how much support and how ready to roll people were.

Speaker 6: And a minority cannabis.org if you want to show your support, right?

Speaker 5: Absolutely. Yes. We take all kinds of support, financial support, a labor support. If you would like to help out on our committees and we have a loss. It's always going up. But of course we do need funds and we need folks to share our message with the world.

Speaker 6: What has most surprised you in life?

Speaker 5: Oh Man. What has most surprised you in life? How certain issues just come up over and over and over again. Like I've, I'm 33 now and so I've been an activist and I was like 16. And some of it, like we're still talking about healthcare. We're still talking about. Police were still talking about a lot of the same things. And so it's actually a lot about cannabis is the most endearing to me about cannabis is how much progress we've been able to make it a short time. Um, and I went to other movements and I've done the hard work. I was an anti death penalty advocate for a long time. That was rewarding. But do it. The death penalty is thousands of years old and we're not there yet. Right. And so, um, I would say that old ideas are still ruling the day has been really surprising to me considering like technological advancements and things like that that we're still talking communism, socialism, capitalism ray like, and it's hundreds of years later. So I'm hopeful for the future, but I'm surprised at how little things change. Sometimes

Speaker 6: old habits die hard, Jason Man. So I'm like, don't die and ever present. Exactly. Alright. Put possibly the most important question that I'll ask you on the soundtrack of your life. One track one song that's got to be on there.

Speaker 5: Oh man, this is probably the hardest one, but I'm going to say, so Saul Williams list of demands and when you look up that song, you'll get it.

Speaker 6: All right. Fair enough. I am. I am disappointed in myself that I don't immediately know what you're talking about. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Speaker 5: Hi. Again, it's not one that's very popular song, but it's one that like resonated with me very strongly when I first heard it. Um, it's um, you know, like I probably could have picked some rage against the machine songs too. That's probably pretty good, but uh, but I think this one, um, if, if you meet me in a political context, um,

Speaker 6: so Saul Williams. Yup. List of demands. Perfect. Jason, this has been an absolute pleasure. Of course, as we figured it would be,

Speaker 5: so really looking forward to it. Thank you again for all your work and your supportive Mtba. It's definitely been a pleasure so far and I'm looking forward to so much.

Speaker 6: There we go. I'll see you down the line.

Speaker 1: Reassurance and camera. And there you have Jason Ortiz. Someone who obviously cares about Puerto Rico, obviously knows about Puerto Rico, is tied to Puerto Rico in many ways. So, you know, on behalf of him, uh, we wish everyone down there the absolute best and a speedy recovery as much as that's possible. Stay tuned.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.