Meet M4MM Executive Director, Rosalyn McCarthy: Cannabis Industry Social Equity and Business Development Activist
Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
“Yes, I started Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana in 2016 after having spent twenty-five years in the health care field focused on marketing, public relations, and business development.
The biggest issue I saw when I was working in the industry was the health care disparity in communities of color. I saw that in Florida where I’m based while getting ready to roll out a medical marijuana program for a statewide vote. After I did my research, I felt compelled to do something to address the health care disparities and the economic opportunity that we’re missing out on. I felt strongly about starting a nonprofit that was hyper-focused on advocacy, outreach and education to the minority community about this.”
Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
“I think the most interesting and actually it just happened recently is that I always get asked by non minorities, can I be a part of M4MM. Do you have to be a minority. Some of the most critical people that helped me bring this organization to life were non-minorities and one man, specifically, Bill Monroe who’s now deceased, just passed away in June. He was what I used to call my work husband. He’s a 6ft 3” white guy who was very passionate about what I was passionate about. And really saw what I was trying to get done and was like, “Roz whatever I can do to help you, I’ll help you. It just reminded me that time is precious and that when you have people, it doesn’t matter if they come from our communities or not. There are people out there willing to and wanting to help us really make a difference in this space. And so, I think, I don’t know if it’s interesting…but I think it’s the most impactful thing that I had the pleasure of working with this man who just really believed in me. I actually miss my friend. And wish he was here to continue this journey with me, but God needed him more than I did.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
“A funny mistake. Sometimes your vision is not meant for everyone. And so I’ve had times where I’ve put people in positions that maybe it wasn’t a good fit for them and I had to go back and laugh about it. Leadership is not for everyone, and sometimes when you’re trying to fulfill a mission, and trying to push out this dream of yours, you make mistakes, you sometimes make people mistakes. Sometimes you make organizational mistakes. I had to laugh at it sometimes in regards to knowing that I just put my best foot forward, and when I messed up - I claim a mess up. I’m like, okay, you know what? I messed up on that one. I think humor and balance in your life, knowing that you don’t have to be perfect in this journey is important. That the journey is a journey, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and it will keep you humble and make you smile.”
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
“We have a Cannabis Business Licensing Boot Camp slated for New Jersey, and this boot camp is really hyper-focused on making sure that minorities, business owners, and social equity are included in this industry. We are identifying qualified applicants across the board and providing an opportunity for them to get some hands-on instructional intensive training on what you have to do in order to compete for a license in the state of New Jersey. I think it’s critical that competing for a license is not taken lightly. This will be our second boot camp. Our first one was in Missouri. I think the people that completed the boot camp in Missouri walked away with some newfound awareness that having a license is not the end all be all and sometimes it’s better to partner. Sometimes it’s better to create joint ventures. Sometimes you have to pivot and do an ancillary business in this space that makes more sense. And so we are here in New Jersey for the next six weeks. Really pushing this out really engaging business owners and helping them to figure out the industry. We are giving them the love and understanding they need to figure out exactly their place in this space. You want to make it so that if something makes sense, they feel like it’s attainable.”
This industry is young, dynamic, and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
“We had to get creative and clever. So, social media buys by themselves are not creative or clever. We, in the cannabis industry, have to get creative and clever because you can’t buy organic marketing. Gaining reach is going to be the only way you attract audiences. You can’t do any paid advertisement. You can barely do anything that pushes the new campaigns out that you pay for because of the censoring of the plant. So, we found ways to be creative. We found ways to really tap into our networks and get their buy-in and get them to agree or to support.
For us, it’s a matter of how we do what we do. We do a lot of posting with Black Lives Matter. We do a lot of posting in the Black Business Network. These are networks that are not in cannabis per se, but guess what? They have an interest in either knowing about social justice issues or social equity opportunities, or both across the board.”
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
“You know what, I will go just down the board here. First, I think the healthcare opportunity of understanding all the cannabinoids, including this that also contain THC. Just what’s going to happen over the next 10 to 15 years from a research perspective and really address the things that are very specific to the African American community excites me. I lost my mom to breast cancer in 2005, and this was not an option in controlling or helping her to have a better quality of life when it came to nausea and the weight loss and everything that she felt going through chemo or radiation. I have a son now who has Sickle Cell, and so I had a chance over the weekend to connect with a doctor I was doing research with who now thinks there’s something that can be isolated in the plant and be used to help my son and more specifically our community.
Second, I am very excited about economic opportunity. I think economically if we don’t use this and look at our new civil rights, and maybe a lot of it is not just talking about touching the plant. We need to look at, how do we fit in and how do we go and step into this with leadership and with commitment and tenacity. How can I be a part of this industry? How can I help you? How do we get you to utilize my service? Our services will help support you in entering the industry. They’re mindful of the fact that our share of this industry is so minimal right now, I think if we’re not jumping on top of this, and trying to figure out where our fit is, it’s a shame on us. Last, but not least we have recently, and I’m so excited to share this news brought on two Law Schools into the M4MM Network. Florida A&M, University Law School in Orlando and Southern University in Louisiana. We now have official chapters on their campuses. The beautiful part about that is that these young people are not waiting. I have to wait forever to get an initiative formally introduced. We’re not going to wait until they’re way into their careers to give them an opportunity to start learning more about this industry and that
really excites me.”
“Well You know the things that scare me are kind of like the things that really excite me. I am concerned about health care disparity and about the fact that we are talking about introducing this plant to communities who have been disproportionately sent to jail or incarcerated for the plant. Breaking the stigma to say, okay, now we want you to use this plant as a medicine. I think it’s a hard, hard, hard mountain to climb. I think it’s doable, but I do think it’s something that scares me that we’re going to see other communities really tap into this plant to benefit their healthcare needs, and we’re not. And we’re going to have more people that pass away. More people that have a poor quality of life. More people that are enduring pain and not realize this can be an option as another supplement to care. The next thing is on the business side. I think what frightens me is that the businesses that are writing public policy are not inclusive. It is critical that we write a policy that is supporting our needs. There are many economic opportunities that this industry presents to us, and if we don’t get this right, We are going to be left behind, and that means that legislators are going to have to be bold. They’re going to have towalk out there and stand up for what’s right in regards to the opportunities that we should be seeing in our community.”
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
“I’m gonna say, well, I think the number one thing is that is not an industry for the faint of heart. It is a tough industry that has a lot of fighting to do. For a lot of people when you’re first trying to get into an industry, you tend to do things that are beneficial to you versus trying to look at what’s going to be the common good for everyone. So, number two. The fact that I don’t see more collaboration, I was thinking, especially for the minority organizations, that we would see more partnerships and more collaboration. I came in very idealistic. I was like, oh, my gosh, let’s all work together. We gotta make all this happen. I don’t see it as much as I want to. It’s getting there, but I thought it would be a no brainer.
Number three is the advertising and also the stigma that’s still attached to the plant is still there, and it can be a little disheartening. It kind of isolates you a little bit. I felt isolated my first two and a half years in the industry. It’s getting better now, but some friends and supporters, and people that I usually hung out with weren’t there.
Number four is - It just drained my pockets. It is definitely a struggle getting the resources, and those resources I’m pulling in are coming from our personal resources. So I had no idea that I would feel like I’m in the poorhouse as I’m also trying to do something super special.
I think number five would be seeing people of color show interests disproportionately even in states that are legal on adult-use and medical use that there’s still being arrested for consumption. We’re not educating, and there’s money out there to do the education, and it’s just not being put into our community. That’s why legalization at the federal level is so important. To say we have to get rid of all the criminality laws that are associated with this plant is an understatement.”
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
“You know what the number one advice I would give them is to remember that diversity, in general, is going to be the healthiest thing you can do for your organization. The healthiest thing that you can do for your consumer base, the healthiest thing you could do for your bottom line. Diversity and inclusion is the way of the future. It is who we are as an industry and who we should be as a world. We have so many different faces and personalities and if we don’t make this a priority from a top-down, and not on the surface, but I’m talking about from the board room to the executive level, to the workforce development, to the supplier diversity and in everything that we do. It’s gonna be a long haul for companies. They have to realize that eventually, business to consumer relationships are going to be based upon how well we performed. Did you embrace diverse communities because diverse communities spend money? They will spend money on cannabis, but these communities are brand loyal. You be loyal to me now or maybe feel the heat of not being loyal to me later on.”
You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
“People create opportunities when there are not any other opportunities. When I get messages on my Facebook or in my email, it says, we follow you, we see you, and you inspire me to want to go after this. That’s what it’s all about. It’s called modeling, and you model behavior, you model business, so that people can think about the possibilities of where this opportunity can present itself in their lives. I think that’s what M4MM is all about. I’m like, why should I have it by myself and not share this with other people?
That’s what the movement is. If you can do it—I can do it too. If you can be in this industry—I can do it too. If you can find a way on a path and not give up—I can do it too. And I think we really have to stay focused on that. We have 27 chapters now within the organization and everyone that runs these chapters is starting to do a really good job of finding their fit and helping other people. If we continue to help people then the mission of this organization will be carried out for many years to come.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
“Our toll-free number, 800-900-2877. Our social media handles MM4M. Our website is in for www.m4mmunited.org. Our email as email@example.com. Join our newsletter to stay informed. If you text #42420 we’ll sign you up and you can stay connected with everything that we have going on.”
The M4MM New Jersey Cannabis Business License Bootcamp starts Oct. 19 and 26 at Seton Hall Law School, Newark, NJ.
Register today @ http://bit.ly/M4MMNJBOOTCAMP