URC Grows, a collaboration between United Returning Citizens and Youngstown, Ohio licensed growing operation Riviera Creek Holdings LLC, is helping past cannabis offenders find employment with industry jobs in the state’s legal cannabis market. “This program will give [the past offenders] an opportunity to get back into the workforce,” said Brian Kessler, chairman of Riviera Creek Holdings.
Attempting to correct the harm caused by the misguided “War On Drugs,” URC Grows is ensuring that the economic benefits of legal medical cannabis in the Midwest state are shared with the most disproportionately impacted communities. Many other states, including New Jersey, have been launching similar programs that take the benefits from adult-use or medical cannabis and do what they can to redirect portions toward benefitting those with former cannabis convictions.
“There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity,” said Dionne Dowdy, executive director of United Returning Citizens. “Everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that [are] just natural to them, that they will thrive in, so why not give them this opportunity.”
Per Cannabis Now, URC Grows will provide cannabis job training and education in three areas: an agriculture program focused on hydroponics and aquaponics; an industrial hemp program intended to educate prospective farmers on how to grow, process, and sell hemp for fiber, grain, or CBD; and a marijuana program that will provide education on cultivating medical-grade cannabis. Graduates of the program will be ready to work in Ohio’s growing medical industry.
“We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity; to have a job, to have a career, to take care of their family, not only would it help them – it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” Dowdy said.
The Hawthorne Social Justice Fund has bestowed a grant to the URC which will be used to help students buy land or cover the startup costs of their businesses.
“We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in-house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Daniel Kessler, COO of Riviera Creek Holdings. Kessler also noted that Riviera Creek Holdings supports legal cannabis for adults. As there is no adult-use cannabis market in Ohio yet, adults are currently forced to accept untested and potentially unsafe cannabis and illicit cannabis operators face the threat of imprisonment.
“If we can replace that with something that generates tax dollars for the state, controlled by the legislative body, works much like the medical program, and has social justice aspects to it – it shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” noted Kessler.
The new jobs program will be open to those with prior marijuana-related offenses including cannabis possession, sales, or cultivation on their records.