For Jeremy Jacob, owner of Village Bloomery, in Vancouver, cannabis has always been about two things: wellness and activism. Ever since its inception, when retail was “de facto legal” in British Columbia pre-2018, Jacob and his wife have fostered a space for breaking stigmas, providing education, and providing the best quality products they could access.
Like many people, Jacob’s original introduction to cannabis was as a teen, but soon, he found that the plant was more than merely a social activity. When the idea for Village Bloomery was born, Jacob and his wife were both using cannabis medically and he was looking for a new industry where he could really make a change.
“Cannabis was a green industry that I could ideologically get behind. It was an exciting time for cannabis in BC, and my wife and I wanted to be a part of this civil disobedience movement that was changing things for the better. We knew advocacy would be a big part of our role and from the outset, we were very active in the space.”
Their vision was to create a new type of retail environment that moved away from the “head shop” style and focused on health, wellness, and education and that’s exactly what they created.
Of course, post-2018 there were some hurdles in their transition to becoming provincially licensed. Like many independent retailers, access to funding was a big hurdle, as was finding new locations, particularly with so many well-resourced competitors in the space.
In a highly regulated industry, there are lots of hoops to jump through and processes to navigate, but now Jacob is pleased to be able to positively impact the lives of Village Bloomery’s customers and is proud of their selection of products from organic, small-batch producers.
Being An Advocate
It’s not just about selling cannabis, though. To Jacob, social justice and civil rights are baked into the cannabis industry.
“The stewards of this plant were people of colour, they brought seeds with them in their migrations, then it was prohibited, criminalized, and used as a tool of oppression.”
As president of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries (CAMCD) and then the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES), Jacob attended Federal Task Force round tables, met with Health Canada and federal and provincial leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and was invited to testify to the Canadian senate. He also spoke at over a dozen conferences across Canada—all to get across the message that legalizing cannabis is about more than a heavily regulated revenue stream.
“It’s about the equity,” Jacob says. “It’s about [regulators] taking an industry that worked for people and making it something that works for business; taking it from the many and giving it to the few. There are many people here for financial reasons, but many are here for higher reasons, no pun intended. It wasn’t called the peace and love drug for no reason.”
How to Support a More Inclusive Industry
In honour of Black History Month, Jacob shared a few ways for everyone to support a more inclusive industry.
“Know the history and the injustice surrounding the plant,” he advises, “and make it your job to join the effort to right that wrong.”
It may seem daunting, but it comes down to being open to listen, learn from, and support minority-owned businesses.
“If you’re a cannabis business and want to support black-identifying people of colour, it’s not enough to put a person of colour in your ad campaigns to make you seem ‘woke’,” says Jacob. “If you want to send that message then it has to be real. It has to be in your boardroom and your leadership. It has to be diverse across your whole business.”