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Alvin Edwards is the founder of Fruits of Our Labor, which employs former prisoners to provide a variety of professional services including the manufacturing/distribution of glass pipes and blunts. David Moss is the chief development officer for From the Earth, a dispensary operating in California and Michigan, and the executive director/co-founder for From the Earth Foundation, the dispensary’s separate, nonprofit organization.
In this interview, Alvin and David join our podcast host TG Branfalt to discuss the strategic partnership between their organizations, wherein From the Earth dispensaries purchase and retail the pipes made by Fruits of Our Labor; the project’s social equity-driven goals; and the importance of driving the industry to focus on giving back to disenfranchised communities that were most heavily affected by the destructive drug war. Their interview also covers Alvin’s journey as a young entrepreneur, David’s insistence on centering philanthropy as a core value for his business, and more!
You can tune in to this week’s Ganjapreneur.com podcast episode through the player below or scroll down on this page to read a full transcript of the interview.
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TG Branfalt: Hey, there. I’m your host, TG Branfalt, and thank you for listening to the Ganjapreneur.com Podcast, where we try to bring you actionable information and normalize cannabis through the stories of ganjapreneurs, activists and industry stakeholders. Today, I’ve got Alvin Edwards, the Third, founder of Fruits of Our Labor, which employs ex-convicts to manufacture and distribute vaporizers and glass blunts as part of their mission to rebuild black communities, rehabilitate their peers and showcase their knowledge to succeed in the budding cannabis industry, and David Moss, executive director and co-founder for From the Earth Foundation and chief development officer for From the Earth, which operates in California and Michigan, and is a strategic partner with Fruits of Our Labor on the social equity-driven project. How are you guys doing this afternoon?
Alvin Edwards: I’m pretty good. How are you?
TG Branfalt: I’m well.
David Moss: I’m doing great. Thanks, TG.
TG Branfalt: It’s great to have you guys on the show. It’s a really exciting partnership, strategic partnership that you guys have going on. I’m really excited to hear the details and for you to tell the audience about the details. But before we do that, give me a brief background about yourselves and how you ended up in the cannabis space.
David Moss: You want to go first Alvin?
Alvin Edwards: Sure. My cannabis background and journey is really starting with my parents. My dad was in the military. He was in the Navy for about 20 years, and then he got discharged because he didn’t have the right protective equipment. In turn, he got seizures and all that type of epilepsy, those types of diseases in situations. From as long as I was born, he just always had marijuana in the house and he was just growing and filtering it. He’s just recently created his own agriculture system in the house and just always been around. Then after that, my uncle tried to succeed and try to have his own company, but this was the ’90s so it was very not successful. Then I just had a lot of experiences with it. Try to build it off of that one.
TG Branfalt: How about you, David?
David Moss: Well, mine started in 1977, going from sixth grade to seventh grade but who … If you’d have told me back then that I’d be doing this today, I’d have laughed real hard. Basically, I lived in Humboldt County for 20 years. I went to Humboldt State after high school, my buddy moved up to Humboldt. I didn’t know Humboldt was an actual place, I just thought it was a weed. When he said, “Come on up and visit,” I fell in love with it, and ended up moving up here and raised kids in Humboldt County.
Moved back down to Los Angeles, and one of my closest friends from childhood called me and asked if I wanted to get into the weed business full-time, and that was basically From the Earth. At the time, we had one store, and at that time we basically had just purchased a new property in Long Beach that we built from the ground up. We had another one in Portland AME, Moreno Valley. We have a lab in Desert Hot Springs. Basically, it evolved into … Now, we’re in the full-time cannabis business, which just happened organically, not something that I actually planned or anticipated years ago.
I’ve also been in philanthropy for the last 25, 30 years. Philanthropy is a big, big part of my personal core values of my life. I’ve had the great opportunities to start a couple of amazing nonprofit organizations that have done some really cool work. So when From the Earth brought me in at the very beginning, this was a core value of ours as well as a business, was we’re in a very fortunate position to be in this business and we want to be able to give back as part of our core value.
TG Branfalt: Tell me about the creation of this strategic partnership and the details of it exactly. How did you guys link up? What’s the story there?
David Moss: Well, I’m going to let Alvin go ahead. It basically starts with our social media director, who’s no longer with us, Mars Wright. But Alvin, why don’t you go ahead and tell the story?
Alvin Edwards: When I first started, I was really just lost, looking for anybody to talk to about it. But I had this idea maybe in 2018, 2019, and then I just thought like, “Oh, it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.” Then after of seeing a whole bunch of people in my other trans-community, I was like, “I might as well just message everyone that I know that has a significant following or just any following at all, and just see if they know anybody and just keep trying.” I think I texted … I sent Mars a message on Instagram and I was like, “Hey, I started this company. Just wanted to know if … I don’t think that you smoke, but I think that this is pretty cool, and I think that it would be nice if you just posted on my page, well, post it on your page.”
Then he was like, “Oh wait. But I have this company that I work for.” I was like, “You say what?” He was very, very supportive and he just showed me everyone and guided me through the whole process with the From the Earth team. He was more than helpful on any emails, getting me to understand what other people do at From the Earth, and just making sure that every partnership and every opportunity was seen and valued and that this could actually happen, and it could actually make a difference for my team and us.
TG Branfalt: Why don’t we back up just a little bit, Alvin? Tell me about … You said you had this idea several years ago. Tell me what was the spark for the idea and then using the ex-convicts and the rehabilitation aspect of it. It’s just such a sort of … When people go to start a business, they generally don’t think about these sort of provisions or this equity aspect of it. Tell me a little bit more about your thought process there.
Alvin Edwards: It all just started back in 2018. My uncle, my other uncle, not the first one, but he actually went to prison for it. What happened was, it was a big giant, not a raid-raid, but they were watching him and just keeping an eye on him because he had been there before. It just kept happening, and then when he went the second time, he was like, “This is the last time I want to go. I’m never going back. I don’t want anything to do with any of that.” I was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” Then I was like, “Well, let’s try to find you a job.” Then after a while of trying to apply for $12, $10 jobs, he couldn’t get any for about four or five months.
I was like, “This is ridiculous. If there was only a way,” and then he was telling me about all this other stuff that he can’t do now because he has a record. I was like, “How is he supposed to live on this?” He has three kids, all three daughters. I was like, “You can’t live on this, and there’s no way that you’re going to be able to work in an office. You’re not going to be able to do get supportive rights. You can’t vote anymore. You can’t do all this.” It was just so many things that he couldn’t do that just made me feel like, “Wow, I feel helpless this whole situation and there’s nothing I can do.”
Then I was like, “Well, is it up to the employers to say who gets hired and who doesn’t get hired based on your background, or is it the government?” Then I realized that after doing some research for about three months that you as a company, depending on which company you are, you can have someone that went to prison or went to any type of establishment and you can hire them, but you just have to be aware of the stakes on your own, and that’s perfectly fine because I really … Before I’d meet someone or hire someone, I try to understand their story before. I’ll just go into different areas in Maryland and then sometimes I’ll go to Baltimore City, and I’ll just try to figure out which parts are run down.
Then normally, my parents taught me that if the area is a run down, they normally have really, really great people, but just got in the wrong situations. I tried to go there. I tried to meet some people. I tried to make friends and then I would ask them like, “Hey, is there something that’s going on here? What happened?” Because I know that these areas were very fruitful at one point. If it’s just the loss of your heroes and the people that you had, because I know that for me, my uncle was my biggest hero and he was just always there. Then when he tried to do something that was better for the family, I guess, and in the legal sphere, his friends, so-called …
He got into a gang, I should just preface that. He got into a gang, and then what happened was the gang said, “Okay, you need to either be our driver or you need to start working product.” He decided after maybe a year of it, he was like, “I can’t do this anymore. My parents and my family come first.” He just said, “I can’t do it,” and then they killed him. It was one uncle that went to prison and then one uncle that ended up getting murdered. The whole thing has just been there since the beginning, and it’s a lot of … The options weren’t great, to begin with, and I just decided that if I can change this, then we can make some real habits or some really good changes, and …
TG Branfalt: Sorry, how do you end up on glass blunts and vaporizers? How did you end up there?
Alvin Edwards: That was the most legal thing that I could find without saying hemp at the time. I couldn’t use the words cannabis right now because when I started it, I was 18, 19. I couldn’t use the words hemp, I couldn’t use the words cannabis, I couldn’t use any type of tobacco … Well, not tobacco, marijuana affiliates. I had to use tobacco because tobacco, if you’re 18 in Maryland, you can use it. I just went and I found all these glass blunts. I started making designs. I found which ones were really selling in the market. I found the seven pipes, the twisty glass blunts, and I was like, “Well, let’s see what I can do design wise,” and I can try to see what tips and what types of filters were going to be good.
Then I just decided let’s have some influence from this, but let’s also have a Maryland or DMV flare to it. I just decided let’s go to a whole bunch of hookah bars, let’s go to a whole bunch of places that have whole bunch of kids. I went to the school. I went to University of Maryland. I just went to parties all the time and just kept asking people. “What do you like? Do you like weed? Do you like … Do you smoke?” Then just kept trying every opportunity that I had to try to grow with them and figure out what the youth liked.
TG Branfalt: It’s a really, really incredible story, man. David, you said you’ve been in philanthropy for 25, 30 years, what’s your take on how your company, From the Earth, works with Fruits of Our Labor and why was it important for you guys to have this strategic partnership?
David Moss: Well, like I said, I’ve been in philanthropy for 25 years unrelated to cannabis. I’ve been very involved in active and justice reform philanthropy. I work in one of the most famous inner city underserved communities in the country known as Watts. I’ve been working in Watts for many, many years. I’m involved with a couple organizations, Inside Outriders which works with young juveniles incarcerated in California. We go into the juvenile halls and do writing programs with the kids, and then follow them through their process and lead them into this group called ARC, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which basically works with currently and formerly incarcerated men and women in creating legislation and passing legislation on how juveniles are treated once they enter the legal system.
For me, this has been a big part of my life. When cannabis came about, it was just a very, very natural crossover and organic marriage so to speak, in that here we are in this amazing position to be in the cannabis business, to be legally selling cannabis while people are still suffering from the very disparaging justice rules and laws that apply to various segments of the population. We’re not all treated the same way when it comes to cannabis. Here we are trying to make. I don’t want to give the misrepresentation. Everyone thinks the cannabis industry is just killing it, but cannabis industry is struggling harder than any business in the legal world, trying to get through all the compliance and regulation. But we are very privileged to be forging this new industry, literally creating an industry out of the weeds, so to speak.
It just makes perfect sense that we, as an industry, have a lot of power to come together, much like the gun industry or the tobacco industry have a lot of power. Well, we can create that. We are that. We are developing that. It just made a lot of sense to focus on equitable social equity programs, things that make sense, things that are mutually beneficial all the way around that help raise awareness, change perspective of people and really focus on how to share the wealth work together and raise awareness in a very positive way. It was very natural for us to jump in.
TG Branfalt: Do you stock the Fruits of Our Labor products in your dispensary? Is that how this works?
David Moss: Yeah, we do. I think Alvin’s the first sort of … This is a new concept. There aren’t a lot of companies out there like what Alvin has started. I mean, it’s very rare-
TG Branfalt: I’ve never heard of another one.
David Moss: … at this point. There’s social equity programs that are out there, but I have yet to see a model that is actually a good model that makes sense for everyone. I think social equity has a lot of growth to work through as this industry creates social equity programs. Alvin just being an independent operator and focusing on social equity goals, so to speak and working with those that are formerly incarcerated and creating opportunities, it’s real easy to work with Alvin, as opposed to trying to work with the city of Los Angeles that has a social equity program that really makes no sense on how they’re doing it. But so yes, we stock the products. Alvin can speak to it probably better. I don’t know the exact number, but I think we placed a decent order, which helped Alvin kick off and launch, and we’re excited to be part of this program and to spread this message.
TG Branfalt: For you, Alvin, when this deal came to fruition, what was it like for you? I mean, what was your reaction to people recognizing what you’re doing and the value it has?
Alvin Edwards: I went to my parents, my dad first. At first, I told my parents, I was like, “I just got this big order.” They were like, “For what?” They didn’t really understand what I was doing at the time. Then I told them, I was like, “Oh yeah, we’re making glass blunts,” and they were like, “Oh no, no, no, no, no.” I was like, “Don’t worry, it’s legal.” Then they’re like, “We don’t know if we really want you doing this.” I was like … I had to talk to my dad about it and ask him about it for a long time. I asked my aunt who lost her son. I was like, “Do you think this is a good idea or not?” I just decided on that last one.
I talked to my team because obviously they are the most important people right now that are … They are really important to me right now because they are going through with me. If I say no, because that’s something that’s really not going to … It’s not affecting me as much as it’s going to affect them is what I’m trying to say. Just to have them be excited and to have that feeling of like, “Oh yeah, we’re actually doing something. We’re doing something and we’re going to be able to bring this to our family and we’re doing something that’s going to be seen and used and reusable. It’s not bad for the environment.” It’s just such a wonderful feeling for them.
I know that a few members of my team were just beyond ecstatic as soon as we got the order. We got one order for 50, and then they’re like, “Okay, this is cool. This is cool.” Then we got another order and they were like, “Wow, we are really making progress.” Since then, they have just been on this high still of feeling like they’re invincible and it’s amazing. It’s really great. We’ve been actually using some of the benefits from this to learn how to do other stuff in the cannabis industry. We’ve been learning about taking some classes. I have a few of them doing some online schooling about it. They’re really trying to learn as much as they can. They’re taking this opportunity with grace and just they’re so humbled by the experience of feeling like they matter about the situation and they’re making a difference.
TG Branfalt: I mean, congratulations on both of you. I mean, it’s such a unique business model. Then to be able to find something that fits in such a way that you’re able to do something, I think that does, as you alluded to David, better than the mandated social equity programs, which we’ll get to in a second. But I want to ask you both, what are some of the best practices that a cannabis company can employ to ensure that they are socially responsible when it comes specifically to social equity? From a business perspective, keeping the state mandates out of it, what do those look like in your estimation?
Alvin Edwards: I’m going to let David take this one first. I’ve answered two questions back-to-back first, so I’m going to let you take that one.
David Moss: I mean, it’s a great question, and it’s a complex question as well, because you had mentioned right now social is a new concept as is this industry being a new industry. Here we are legally selling cannabis and there are literally still 30, 40,000 people locked up across the country for cannabis crimes. One, raising awareness. I think all companies in the cannabis world should be working together to raise awareness with our legislators about creating laws that make sense, and the House of Representatives just took the very first step for the first time in history to vote to decriminalize at the federal level.
Now, obviously, we have our ways to go before that gets through the next level, but it’s a major sign and it’s a major step that awareness is being raised and mindsets are being changed. I think one, the cannabis industry as a whole can help raise awareness towards the injustices that are taking place, especially operators that are in states where there’s a higher density of people still locked up. California, I’m not sure how many people, if any are actually still locked up for cannabis-alone crimes, but there are other states across the country where those numbers are disproportionate.
TG Branfalt: I mean, Alvin and I both live in those states. I mean, Maryland and New York.
David Moss: What’s that?
TG Branfalt: Maryland and New York. I’m based in New York, Alvin’s based in … I mean, there’s still people in jail for cannabis here.
David Moss: Right. I think there are minority owned businesses and operators that have worked hard to get to their position, and I think recognizing and trying to do business with companies that are minority owned is something that we’re doing as a company. Alvin’s a great example of what’s possible. With a little idea and some hard work and perseverance, you can create a company. I think that’s a model to the industry as well, and to just people in general that if you can think it, you can do it, a lot of times. The way Alvin’s done it is actually real interesting because the barrier to entry is much easier to get into without touching cannabis. It’s a whole different realm of craziness and expense and red tape and challenges.
Then I think municipalities and cities that want to incorporate and create social equity programs. LA and San Francisco have taken the largest fastest step, but honestly they have a lot of work to do to make their programs make sense. Right now they’re not equitable social equity programs to all involved, and there should be benefit for everyone. It shouldn’t be that all the benefit goes to the social equity applicants. In concept, it’s great, but I don’t see too many successful models actually being implemented yet. We have a lot of work as an industry and as legislators to come together to create the model that makes sense.
I think we, as an operator, are constantly looking to create new brands and develop new things. Hiring practices in municipalities where they will allow us to hire somebody that has a felony record, we’re all about that. That’s a newer concept that we’re starting to incorporate because it’s a challenge. BCC has guidelines, and then each municipality has guidelines. We work closely with the law enforcement departments in cities that we operate, and it’s an issue that we’re now looking to actively pursue through some of these organizations that I’ve talked about already that are working with formerly incarcerated.
How can we create pipeline to create more opportunities that add to their list of, “Hey, they can come apply for a job with us.” We’re all about second chances and giving opportunities and then developing brands. Maybe helping and creating social equity opportunities where we work with somebody to create a brand that similar to what Alvin is doing, but maybe more actually in the cannabis. Those are I think things that the industry could do as a whole.
TG Branfalt: What do you think, Alvin? What are, in your opinion, some of the best practices that a cannabis company specifically could employ as far as social equity is concerned?
Alvin Edwards: I would say that there’s a lot of hesitation towards the community and towards the people that are in this bubble. I feel like it’s really easy to … At least in Maryland, I haven’t seen a lot of companies that are really willing to … They’re a part of the cannabis industry, but they won’t really work with people that have been inside of the system and been inside of “the hole.” They haven’t been … They want to be a part of it, but they aren’t really taking into account the people that have been, and they aren’t really listening to them. I’ve been trying to just contact other people and try to see if they can at least give them a floor to talk about their stuff.
I’ve been having direct conversations with people that are still incarcerated. I leave them letters even right now, even during COVID. I write them letters, I try to get them established so that they can at least know each other and know what’s going on. I have been trying to work on getting not therapy, but getting some type of vocalization out of it and getting the basic needs met. Because a lot of times, even after you come out of after being incarcerated, a lot of your basic needs are just not stripped away, but they’re deeply stunned where you don’t feel like you can talk to anybody, you don’t feel like you can do certain things. You just feel really … It just doesn’t feel like you’re being heard or seen.
In the cannabis industry, it’s such a big part of American history and American culture that it doesn’t really make sense to not hear everybody’s story. There’s tons of shows on Netflix or there’s tons of shows on Hulu or any other broadcasting streams, but none of them that are independently made or breaking through the lines yet. I’d want to see some type of growth in just any of the fields, any type of creative field or any type of field, period, that just shows that anyone can do it, anyone can feel it, no matter what’s gone through anything … That doesn’t make sense. No matter what you’ve gone through, it’s still possible and it’s still feasible without-
TG Branfalt: Your past doesn’t define who you are.
Alvin Edwards: Yes. Thank you. Thank you. It’s so many opportunities that people aren’t taking because they’re scared or they just have been told no so many times. I’d really want that to change.
David Moss: I would add to that. I mean, you brought up a couple of really important points because there’s a couple of issues. One, the general public’s view of formerly incarcerated, for lack of a better word, criminals, defined by maybe just or unjust laws is hard to change. I mean, that’s something that … I got involved in working with formerly incarcerated men and women. Prior to doing that, I was of the mindset that these are bad people that committed crimes that should be in jail. Then as I started to learn more about them and then who they were and what their stories were, and you talk about being able to hear their stories, I mean, it changed my entire perception, which entirely changed my entire life to be perfectly honest with you, by raising an awareness and changing the paradigm in my own head about what a criminal is or how this person even got there.
We tend to not deal with the issues, we deal with the symptoms. We’re not dealing with the disease so to speak, which is what leads them there. Most people are good people inherently. You mentioned your uncle who got into a gang. I mean, I deal with lots of kids who grow up without a father or raised by an aunt and they have no money and they have no access and all they have is the gang. That becomes the family and the guiding light until they get locked up, and then the family disappears and is gone. They’re not there for him. When you understand what led a person to get to that point, I think it’s important as a society and a culture that we realize these are human beings, that, one, the system is just against them. That’s a whole issue that’s going on.
Telling the stories is critical and understanding the human side of … Then I think people will change and then I think the industry as a whole can have a much more open mind towards this concept. From a company point of view, we’re getting ready to, and I’m not going to talk a lot about it, but we’re getting ready to release a little mini-documentary that we shot that highlights a young black man who was zero crime record, good kid, going to school, working, got busted for marijuana. We’re telling the story. The idea is to tell these stories to change perception, raise awareness, and hopefully develop social equity, which-
TG Branfalt: I mean, we’ve sort of touched on legislative social equity provisions, those provided by the government. I mean, it’s always seemed odd to me personally that it was the government that outlawed cannabis, put people in jail and now we’re relying on that same government to undo the harm that they did. That always seemed a little crazy to me. But David and Alvin, both of you, what’s your take on legislative social equity provisions? I mean, do they generally do enough to undo the harm of the war on drugs?
David Moss: I’ll just say, I don’t think so. I mean, you got to start somewhere. That’s the key. You got to start somewhere. Like I said, I think the concept is coming from the right place, but it isn’t developed properly yet and it’s not benefiting enough people. Like in LA, 100 people were entitled to social equity applications. Okay. I mean, that’s nothing …
TG Branfalt: 1% of the of people who have been jailed. I mean, or 0.5%. I’m not a math man.
David Moss: There needs to be more opportunity, and like I said, opportunity that makes sense, that makes me as an operator wanting to participate in a program, and right now that doesn’t exist. We’re looking outside of those systems and working directly with someone like Alvin to create something that makes sense for all of us. That works. Again like I said, how can we as an industry create something that makes sense? As an industry, we can talk to our legislators and our municipalities and say, “Hey, this program is good in concept, but it doesn’t make sense. We need to change it,” and develop real social equity programs.
TG Branfalt: What’s your take on it, Alvin? I mean, the social equity portion of it was a big sticking point in Maryland before they would pass the medical cannabis expansion. Ultimately there was a little bit of controversy associated with that because the delegate in charge was ultimately jailed for bribery related to this whole thing. What’s your take on these social equity programs?
Alvin Edwards: My thought on it as a whole is I really want younger people to be … No offense to anyone else, I really want younger people to start getting involved in this whole thing, because we’re in such an age where nothing really phases the young kids. They support their friends only fans, they support their friends doing whatever there is. It’s so easy for them to just be supportive and caring about other in things that don’t really … that don’t necessarily involve them. Older generations, they used to be like, “Oh, well, they’re doing this. It’s none of my business.”
But younger people are like, “No, I want to get involved. I want to learn about you. I want to feel what you feel, so then I can be sympathetic at least, or empathetic to what you’re going through.” I feel these are starting to be really big changes in this community. A year or two ago, I started working … I worked with the Cannabis Commission for Maryland. I started actually taking research there. I started being an intern. I took my free time just to learn the basics of it.
I kept trying, and I kept meeting more people that were either in situations like me or I met people that were really just passionate about it. There’s one guy, the Maryland … I think he’s the commissioner, I think, of some type of cannabis over here. His name is Darryl Carrington. I met him when I was at a college. I went to UNBC because my mom works there. I was just like, “Oh.” Well, my mom was like, “This guy, he keeps coming in. He said that there’s something about cannabis.” My mom had no idea what that actually meant. She was like, “Oh yeah, you can be an intern there.” I told my regular dad and he was like, “Yep, no.”
From then, I just kept his email, I just kept contacting him, I kept bothering him and pestering him until he would tell me more stuff about it to get to know about the legal, any type of things that he thought was important to him. I really grasp onto him a mentor, because obviously, if he’s taking his time and he’s dedicated his life to it, it’s something worth at least looking at or spending time to do. I feel like the young kids know this, the older generations are getting more feasible to it, if they aren’t already. I feel like this is going to be something that’s going to rebuild the stuff that’s been broken.
TG Branfalt: I want to ask you both very specific questions about your work with your respective companies. At Fruits of Our Labor, something I read about that was really, really interesting to me about your company was that you hold monthly meetings and you ask employees what they want for the company, how to make it better and how they and the company can innovate in the space. Not a lot … I mean, I’ve been in the workforce for 26 years now or something crazy, and I’ve never had this experience. Never, right? No matter where I’ve been professional, fast-food didn’t matter. What type of responses do you get from those meetings? Why is it important for you to hold these sessions?
Alvin Edwards: It’s really important for us to hold those sessions because every month things go on that are different. One month, one of the … When we first started out, what they said they really wanted, I asked them, “What type of benefits do you want? Because we can’t really give a lot right now.” Most of the people just said they want to get therapy for them and their kids. I said, “Okay, we can do that. That’s fine. We’ll find something that’s going to be affordable for all of us, and we will try to get therapy either in-house or we’ll try to have a trip that we all go to see them.”
TG Branfalt: Unbelievable.
Alvin Edwards: Then the next month, one guy was like, “Oh, I want to do … I’m really getting into drones and stuff like that.” I was like, “Okay, cool. Let’s look up how to build drones, and let’s see if we can make that into our thing,” because we live either by Carroll community, or we live by Baltimore County community. We live by community colleges, we live by dorm colleges, we live by these big places, knowing that either they’re close to getting a Green Card or they’re working on it, or there’s stuff that. We’re trying to build drones now that are going to be able to deliver it because we have the technology, we have all this stuff to learn.
We’re trying to just put some type of foothold in there that is technological, that is creative and almost any type of creative fields, we’re getting people that are interested in art into art, we’re getting people that are interested in just … Whatever they were really interested in was the monthly meeting. I just asked, “What are you guys really interested in? How can I make you guys feel like you’re valued and appreciated? Then what did you guys do that made sense? What was something that you saw that was cool or what was going on in the news?” Just kept asking every month. It got annoying for them at that first few months. But after the six months, they were like, “We’re starting to get this,” and I was like, “All right, sweet.” I thought its-
TG Branfalt: That’s super, super cool.
Alvin Edwards: … so important to do, to talk to people because things go on all the time and you don’t really know or things happen and then they’re just like, carrying it.
TG Branfalt: I mean, the idea of … Because we know that drone delivery is on the horizon, at least for Amazon, I mean, it’s such a spectacular idea to be ahead of the curve and figure out what those rules and regulations are going to look eventually for this space. Super wild, man. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. David, tell me about why the foundation was formed, ultimately. I mean, you already have a company where you can enact a lot of these policies. Why go the step further?
David Moss: Well, partly in due to, as a cannabis company, we’re giving back to the communities where we operate. We can do that. We don’t need a nonprofit to do that. But on a larger picture, we can also team up with organizations that are working towards justice reform. By creating a foundation, one, we wanted to see if we could get a cannabis related, even though it doesn’t touch cannabis, federally tax exempt, which we did.
Alvin Edwards: Nice.
David Moss: Yeah. The organization is called From the Earth Foundation. We didn’t hide it. We didn’t pretend. We talked about our … It’s a separate entity and we weren’t sure whether the IRS was going to approve it or not. Well, they did. We’re one of very few cannabis operators in the country that has a federally tax exempt non-profit, and we felt by doing so, one, it opens up more opportunities for us to raise money and awareness, because we can now ask our customers to donate and receive a legitimate tax write off for a donation. We can ask our vendors to participate. It just creates a more legitimate giving opportunity and it allows us to expand the program and expand awareness through a legitimate 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
TG Branfalt: Unbelievable, man. I mean, I-
David Moss: I’ll be really clear. From the Earth Foundation does not touch cannabis in any way, shape or form, but it receives money from our cannabis operations, and we made that very clear. Again, we just weren’t sure how that was going to play, but we got approved and we’re excited. Again, we support organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, and the Police Explorers, and the US Navy Marine Relief Center and food banks and stuff like that. In addition to working with, we’re beginning to build a relationship with Last Prisoner’s Project, which works on getting expungement and raising awareness and transition back into the real world once they get out and so forth. Having a nonprofit allows us to do that on a much larger scale.
TG Branfalt: I mean, it’s really interesting to me. I mean, you guys are working together from across the country. You couldn’t be any more different on the surface, but your passion, both of your passion, for this equity and this justice and this philanthropic soul, I guess you might say, it comes through just in this conversation. Congratulations to both of you for getting to this point in your lives. What advice would you guys have for other entrepreneurs looking to enter this space? Whether it be an ancillary business, like making glass blunts, or touch the plant side of it. What’s …
David Moss: I hope you got a … I would say on the touching the plant side of it, make sure you got a lot of money, a lot of patience, and that you can handle a lot of risk and a lot of headache. It’s a challenge, I’m not going to lie. It’s probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever been involved in in my life. But-
TG Branfalt: Not for the faint of heart.
David Moss: That’s what I would say.
TG Branfalt: What about you, Alvin?
Alvin Edwards: I would say be nice to everyone, learn what people like. Just talk to people essentially. For a while, I didn’t want to take any money away from my company, from the people that worked for me. So I got a regular job and I kept a … When I had the interview, I just told my boss, I was like, “Okay, I run this glass blunt company. We normally work with marijuana and stuff like that,” and I was fully expecting her to say, “Oh, no, now you can’t work for us.” I was like, “Okay, that’s fine.”
But it turns out a week later, she was like, “Yeah, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me at all.” They’ve been super supportive about the whole thing. They just really care. I would say just talk about your stuff, because who knows who’s into what and who knows what they have to offer, who they know. Just talk about yourself, not in a creepy way, but just talk about yourself and talk with people and understand what they like too. Because you might find that that really innovative idea based on just someone talking to you.
TG Branfalt: I mean, to your point. I mean, you sent an Instagram message and here we are.
Alvin Edwards: Yep.
David Moss: Let me just clarify. I don’t want to discourage anybody who has a vision of getting into the cannabis industry. But realistically, people should know the barrier to entry is a challenge. It’s a challenging thing. Get as much info … If you are thinking about getting into the business, research. Do as much research as you possibly can on what it takes. Every city is different. It’s a challenge. Find a city where there’s a non-competitive application process, meaning they’re willing to give as many licenses away if you meet the qualifications, as opposed to a competitive application process where there’s five licenses in a city. I mean, that would be my advice to somebody thinking about it. Get educated, learn as much as you can, and don’t just go in thinking you’re going to get into the business and make a lot of money. I mean, it’s challenging.
TG Branfalt: I mean, that’s one of the things that I’ve heard time and time is that people think that you get into cannabis and it’s early tech and you’re rich overnight. The more conversations I have, the more I realize it’s not the case. Before we wrap up here-
David Moss: Only in the elicit, illegal market does that happen. It’s true.
TG Branfalt: No, I just probably shouldn’t comment on that being because I live in New York. Before we wrap up, where can people find out more about From the Earth first, and then we’ll go to where people can find out more about Fruits of Our Labor?
David Moss: Well, you can go to fromtheearth.com, for one, to learn about our operations and what we’ve got going on, or you can go to fromtheearthfoundation.org and check out From the Earth Foundation, and how to donate and where you can make donations and where those donations go. We have our Instagram and our Facebook page and all of that stuff as well, which is all in that website.
TG Branfalt: It’s all @Fromtheearth?
David Moss: Yep.
TG Branfalt: Where can people find out more about Fruits of Our Labor?
Alvin Edwards: We have a Instagram page. It’s Fruits of Our Labor. It’s underscore. We have one underscore, it’s fruits_ofourlabour. We added U just to be different in labor. Then we have fruitsofourlabor.net. Those are our main two places where you can find us. But yep, besides that, I can’t really think of anything else that we really are up-to-date on. Not that I can think of yet.
TG Branfalt: Well, again, I really want to thank you guys for coming on the show, taking the time. This is a really, really interesting strategic partnership that you guys have. Again, I just want to congratulate you on getting to this point. That’s Alvin Edwards, the Third. He is the founder of Fruits of Our Labor, which employs ex-convicts to manufacture and distribute vaporizers and glass blunts as part of its mission to rebuild black communities that rehabilitate their peers and showcase their knowledge to succeed in the cannabis industry.
David Moss, executive director and co-founder for From the Earth Foundation and chief development officer for From the Earth, which operates in California and Michigan, and is a strategic partner with Fruits of Our Labor on the social equity driven project. Thank you both again for coming on the show, and I can’t wait to see where this goes down the road.
Alvin Edwards: Thank you for having us.
David Moss: Thanks for having us. It was fun. Great conversation.
TG Branfalt: I look forward to hopefully having you guys on the show again, maybe individually, because I think there’s a lot more that we didn’t get to cover because of the time constraints. But …
David Moss: Anytime.
TG Branfalt: You can find more episodes of the Ganjaentrepreneur.com Podcast in podcast section of ganjapreneur.com on Spotify, and in the Apple iTunes Store. On ganjapreneur.com website, you will find the latest cannabis news and cannabis jobs updated daily along with transcripts of this podcast. You can also download the ganjapreneur.com app in iTunes and Google Play. This episode was engineered by Trim Media House. I’ve been your host, TG Branfalt.