Cole Ashbury Group, owner of the soon-to-open cannabis store at 1685 Haight St., is formally announcing a partnership with Cookies. In this partnership, Cole Ashbury Group will retain full ownership of the Cannabis store with Shawn M. Richard serving as CEO and consultant to Cookies on their broader Social Equity strategy. In turn, Cookies and its founder Berner (a.k.a. Gilbert Milam) bring 20 years of cannabis industry expertise and access to much-needed resources to the Haight Street shop.
The shop will be the first to open under San Francisco’s Social Equity Program, which aims to address the damage done to communities of color by the “War on Drugs.”
“Cannabis legalization isn’t coming to the Haight-Ashbury;” shared Vallie Brown, District 5 Supervisor. “No, the laws are finally coming to the Haight-Ashbury’s way of thinking, of valuing healing, freedom of expression, and social equity. It’s exciting and fitting that San Francisco’s first social equity cannabis store will be right here in the Haight, and that it will be led by a man like Shawn Richard who has spent decades in selfless service to our community.”
Both organizations have deep ties to San Francisco and the Haight Street community specifically. Berner grew up above his father’s restaurant on Fillmore St. in San Francisco and went onto become a self-made entrepreneur with a cannabis, clothing, and lifestyle empire. The Cookies flagship clothing store is a few blocks away on Haight Street.
For his part, Shawn M. Richard is a native San Francisan who grew up within walking distance of the soon-to-open Cannabis store. The founder of the violence reduction non-profit Brothers Against Guns and a co-founder of the San Francisco Equity Group, Shawn M. Richard is also the first Equity Partner approved by the City and County of San Francisco to open a Cannabis store under the San Francisco Cannabis Equity Program
“This isn’t just a store, it’s a platform,” said Shawn M. Richard. “All eyes will be on us, and I want to show the City and the world the benefits of partnering with people who are truly committed to advancing Equity and understand that our communities need more than expungement. Cookies is that partner, and we’re excited to have them standing with us.”
According to the Human Rights Commission, whose Cannabis Equity Report has guided the SF Cannabis Equity Program, “The War on Drugs has had disastrous impacts in San Francisco. In this city and in cities across the nation, these effects of decades of discriminatory drug policies have been shouldered by that have been made more vulnerable.”
ACLU research supports the Human Rights Commission’s conclusions, showing that despite parity in Cannabis usage rates, people of color are approximately four to eight times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for Cannabis, and the damage done can extend far beyond the arrest itself. Arrest records can result in the loss of employment and housing, denial of access to credit, loans, and public assistance, and a host of other disadvantages. Leveraging the emerging Cannabis industry to help correct these systemic disadvantages is the aim of the larger Equity movement.
“We are embracing the social equity program for what it was intended to be through partnerships with equity applicants like Shawn. I look forward to working with Shawn and the Cole Ashbury Group to set the standard for social equity across the nation. Cookies is dedicated to keeping the people who risked their freedom and life for this plant in the game.” Berner, founder and CEO of Cookies.
The Haight-Ashbury store is located at 1685 Haight St. in San Francisco and is currently slated to open later this December. For more information about San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program and to read the full Cannabis Equity Report, visit https://officeofcannabis.sfgov.org/equity.