Sign up for theBluntness newsletter for all your latest cannabis news.
CitizenGrown will champion radical equality for the cannabis industry. They empower our Citizens and their communities by providing free automated technology that produces a top-shelf flower, for which they receive a portion of the profits. By decentralizing the benefits of the cannabis economy, they give decision-makers and consumers the ability to support and connect with local communities.
We caught up with CitizenGrown to learn more about how they’re changing the weed world.
How did you get involved in cannabis?
CitizenGrown grew out of a startup that was in a tech business accelerator I used to run. Pepijn Van der Krogt and Nico Ruiz, both CitizenGrown co-founders, had developed leading technology in hydroponics with automated grow boxes. We call them Nodes. With these Nodes we can produce, in a 5’x5’ space, around 20-25 pounds of cannabis a year with minimal hands-on hours. We looked at what we could do with that and how we could take care of people with that.
We decided to create a decentralized network for growing cannabis that we can then use to improve communities that have been ravaged by the war on drugs. We establish grow centers in different cities, and share revenue with citizens in social equity programs. We’re not just a cannabis company, and we’re not just a tech company. We’re a social impact company who seeks social justice through automation in the cannabis industry.
What is your mission with CitizenGrown?
I was bullied as a kid. That did a lot to me emotionally, and frankly, I want to stop the bullying that’s happening in the business world, because it’s really everywhere.
In the cannabis industry, people of color and people in lower income neighborhoods pioneered the way for the legal market while taking all of the risk and four times the arrests. And yet they are being pushed out of the legal market by businesses with more money, power, and influence. And that’s not right.
CitizenGrown champions radical equality for the cannabis industry. CitizenGrown is here to stand up to injustice. We help those who are most affected by unfair laws, decisions, and policies made to favor corporations and governments and not communities. Later we will expand our model to help everyone, from single mothers and medical patients to municipalities, charity organizations, and state governments.
We use our automated grow Nodes to produce high quality cannabis and profit share with citizens in disenfranchised neighborhoods. We manage the entire process - from implementation of the tech, to the grow, to the final sale with partner dispensaries. By establishing nodes in diverse communities we are creating a decentralized network of cannabis growers, preventing monopolies from controlling the market, and empowering those who need it most.
We work with policy makers to ensure that social equity provisions work -- both for the cities and citizens.
I would love for other companies to take our business model and use it. We want to inspire more of the kinds of businesses that give back to communities. We view our economic model as a passive income stream for their Citizens. In a way, what we’re doing is a free-market version of universal basic income.
Where do you see yourself in the industry in 5 years?
Within 5 years Airbnb expanded internationally, helping citizens across the world generate more income and improve their lives. In 5 years I see CitizenGrown as the Airbnb of the cannabis industry. Our model is flexible and works with the laws of any state, any country. We’re creating a cannabis industry that is by the people, for the people. And we’re not limited on space, since we house a decentralized network of growers. Airbnb’s hosting power is higher than the top five major hotel brands combined. That wealth is spread out to the citizens, rather than a few rich who get even richer.
The cannabis industry is exploding and with that comes with a grave threat -- that medium and small sized growers will be pushed out; that those in social equity programs won’t have the capital to compete with massive umbrella chains owned by the likes of Wal-Mart and Budweiser. We are able to support micro farms and maintain quality that is instrumental to good health – no one wants mold and pesticides in their cannabis – and that is absolutely necessary to the industry.
What's the biggest challenge of working in the cannabis space and the biggest reward?Undoing the damage from cannabis’s vilification. There are a lot of glamour brands out there making cannabis look sexy and pushing it as an elite lifestyle. But that’s not what we’re about. We’re working directly with policy makers to make big decisions about social equity in legalizing cannabis. There are a lot of misconceptions and prohibition-era type thinking and that makes our job hard.
Every day we’re confronted by the massive amounts of damage that the war on drugs has done to communities. Our job is to reverse those damages and pave the way for the future of cannabis as a more just and equitable industry. The reward is our successes: when we do our job well, we’re transforming lives.
Do you have any advice for any fellow cannapreneurs?
If you know you’ve got something, go for it. Stand up to the people out there who are trying to claim the space for themselves. There are resources and people out there who will help you succeed, you just have to be diligent about finding them. Don’t just build your business on the backs of others, make sure that you’re building a socially conscious and environmentally conscious model, because that’s where the future needs to take us.