NEW YORK — RAW Rolling Papers (BBK/HBI), the independent international brand of high-quality rolling papers and smoking innovations, and The JUSTÜS Foundation, announced today the recipients of the RAW Seeds Fellowship. The three award recipients, all of whom are Legacy Operators– Empress Modupe, Eli Terry, and Erin “E” Thurmond – will receive $20,000 each to help grow their businesses in the cannabis space as they navigate through this new legalized market.
Empress Modupe Olufumni-Jacobs, a cannabis health and wellness advocate who founded Balm of Gilead Cannabis Health and Wellness Ministry (Balm O.G. 360 LLC), based on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. Olufumni-Jacobs says they applied to the grant “for the startup funds to develop Balm O.G. LLC 360 into the environmentally friendly, sustainable business we have created. The funds will also be utilized to purchase tools and other resources needed in creating and processing cannabis formulations, for those we provide our services. Due to current cannabis legislation we are not able to secure basic start up funding.” Balm O.G. 360 LLC. was legally registered in the state of Hawaiʻi on December 31, 2021. However, family members have been in the “Black Market,” as cultivators, import and exporters, processing and creating cannabis formulations and products, caregiving for medical consumers since 1976. Her records show a felony charge, a bench warrant, and arrest issued in 1987 in the State of Hawaiʻi. Fast forward a few decades, Hawaiʻi is positioning itself to legalize adult-use, and she is concerned these old issues will continue to be a challenge for the business.
Eli Terry, CEO of the 501c6 nonprofit Glue Lagoons Farm, a legacy craft cultivation based in Jersey City, New Jersey. Terry mentioned how his conviction set the business back as no progress towards goals were made while serving time and now has to live with the burden over his head, setting expectations for growth far back. The grant money will be used for overhead cost fees and the lawyer fees needed for a conversion application
Erin “E” Thurmond, the president and founder of PiF Pharmz, located in Brooklyn, New York. Thurmond has been in the cannabis space his entire adult life, building a cannabis distribution network that reached from coast to coast – beginning in New York and reaching California. Thurmond was arrested in 2019 in Far Rockaway, New York for cannabis and served 1.5 years upstate for that conviction, and has only had one real job due to his parole. Thurmond hopes to use the grant to help obtain proper legal counsel and pay for the fees to gain a NYS microbusiness license.
All three qualified as “Legacy Operators” defined as, “An individual who commercialized Cannabis for the majority of their income, or sacramentally or ceremonially distributed Cannabis, outside of the legal framework, during the period of prohibition, predating legalization by 5 years.” The RAW Seeds Fellowships grant aims to help return opportunities to these legacy cannabis operators that should have never been taken away in the first place.
Two other recipients – Amanda Knodle, Consultant for Big Bs Martyjuana Farm, and James “Jamie” McRight, Operating Officer of County Line Farms – will receive $5,000 each to support expanding their businesses. Another $15,000 will be distributed in smaller amounts to other entrepreneurs to apply to license application fee grants.
The JUSTÜS Foundation is committed to helping legacy cannabis operators transition into the global legal cannabis market. The JUSTÜS Foundation educational programs include: “The Woman Warrior Initiative,” “Safe Smoke Sesh Series,” “Octogacy,” “Mental Health First “The Revolutionary Cannabis Series,” “Cannabis Accounting Roundtables,” and “JUSTÜS JUMP Ins.”
“We take great pride in empowering the pioneers of this industry, all of whom showed tremendous passion and perseverance by building the cannabis industry from the ground up while battling legal issues and facing injustice,” said RAW’s founder Josh Kesselman. “We hope this grant is a way for these entrepreneurs to really feel like they’ve turned a new leaf and are provided with the opportunities they deserve. The legacy operators are the individuals who are the true lifeblood of this industry, those who were willing to risk it all in order to build an industry that has only recently begun emerging from the shadows and embracing legality. We truly believe that giving back and supporting these entrepreneurs to help them achieve success in any way possible is also a way to give to the cannabis community as a whole.”
To keep the joint rolling, awardees are encouraged to “pay it forward” with their own similar donations upon achieving success in the legal cannabis industry.
About JUSTÜS Foundation
The JUSTÜS Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring and facilitating the entry of legacy (pre-legalization) cannabis operators to the legal cannabis market across global markets. The organization was founded by long time cannabis activist Steve DeAngelo. The scope of The JUSTÜS Foundation’s work is global and we fight for the legacy community because If legacy operators are not welcomed into the legal market we will not see an optimized, diverse legal market. The organization was founded in October 2021 in response to the following two related trends: the exclusion of the legacy cannabis operators from the legal industry and the persistence of a dual market following legalization, which results in a delay in consumer migration to the legal cannabis market.
To learn more about our work and make a donation to The JUSTÜS Foundation visit our website at www.justus.foundation or text “LegacyLove” to 801801
RAW is a fiercely independent global brand of high-quality rolling papers and smoking innovations. The company produces natural, unbleached rolling papers that are used by millions of people worldwide. RAW’s Classic papers – its most popular line – is loved by veterans and novices alike. Through RAW’s humanitarian efforts, named RAW Giving, it has donated more than $2.5 million in direct cash contributions, plus in-kind contributions of about $200,000 to a wide variety of charities – from clean water in Ethiopia, homeless pets in a no-kill rescue shelter, planting hundreds of thousands of trees, and more. To learn more, visit rawgiving.com.