Laila R. Makled is the VP of Operations at Breeze Distro, a house of brands based in Oakland, CA* that uplifts and resonates within Black and Brown communities while building inclusive supply chains to ensure participation from underrepresented groups in the cannabis industry. Currently, Laila also serves as the Advocacy & Education Chair for the National Cannabis Festival and National Cannabis Policy Summit.

Over the 7 years Laila spent in Washington, D.C.*, Laila worked at Stones’ Phones, New Frontier Data, Women Grow, Americans for Safe Access, and the High Street PR. Laila is also a queer & trans community organizer, having coordinated numerous direct actions, rallies and events through the DC Dyke March, the Working Families Party, and DC’s City Wide Mutual Aid Network.

Laila identifies as agender, uses they/them pronouns, and comes from grandparents who immigrated from Lebenon, one grandparent who is a Palestinian refugee, and one grandparent whose family colonized the land of the Karankawa people in what is now known as Texas.

*Oakland, CA is colonized Ohlone land 

*Washington, D.C. is colonized Nacotchtank & Piscataway Conoy land

Why is gender parity (having at least 50% women) so important?

I would go even further to say we need to re-evaluate and dismantle the gender binary entirely. 50% parity erases the identity of trans and queer people whose gender identities don’t fall within ‘women’ or ‘men’. That being said, ensuring gender equity in a brand new industry is essential, especially a billion dollar industry. As it stands, the industry is still dominated by white cis men. 

Not only is gender equity the socially responsible way to conduct business, having a workforce that incorporates the views of all genders, as well as one that is actively working to dismantle gender dynamics within capitalism, will increase productivity and overall happiness in the workplace.

What social justice and/or criminal justice reforms do you want the US to make around its drug policy, particularly around cannabis?

There are too many to count, but here is a short list: 

  • End job drug testing for cannabis 
  • End arrests and jail time for cannabis possession and use, including immigrants who do not have state sanctioned paperwork to be in the U.S.
  • Look to places like Oakland when building out equity programs to ensure there is not only opportunity, but a guarantee that those most impacted by the War on Drugs will be receiving a part of the wealth generated from the cannabis industry
  • Defund the police & abolish prisons and redirect resources to mental & other health services, housing, and workforce development
  • Reparations. I don’t think cannabis will be able to provide all the reparations that are owed to Black communities in the United States; however, given how violent the War on Drugs was towards Black people in the U.S., there should be some form of reparations program in all regulated markets. We saw the first of these types of policies pass in Evanston, IL in March of 2019.

Why are environmentally sustainable business practices essential to the future of the cannabis industry?

As it stands, a lot of regulations, particularly packaging regulations, are not only counter to fighting climate change, they can also be abelist due to how difficult it can be to open packages. Global warming is real and we only have one home. As a movement that is based on a plant, it is essential that we create sustainable agricultural, packaging and testing practices that protect our Earth & consumers. As it stands, the industry and regulators simply are not doing enough in this regard. 

How do you incorporate gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability into your work and the growth of your business/organization?

As a queer person decendent of immigrants and refeguees, an intersectional lense is incorporated into everything I do. Consumers increasingly continue to put their money where their mouth is and want to buy from companies that are rooted in social responsibility and giving back to their communities. It is important for us all to consider our own identity, and how race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. affect how we view/interact with others and how others perceive us and our businesses. 

There are millions of different ways to walk through this world, and it would be incredibly difficult to consider them all at any given moment; therefore, there will always be some form of harm that is happening, either to you or by you. But, it is how we respond to that harm that propels us forward. We must always be willing to show compassion to ourselves and others, apologize, admit when we cause harm, and do what we can to repair harm when it shows up.

If we have an industry that is full of rich white men, or even rich white women for that matter, then we are no better than the tech boom of the 1990s.

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