Narmin, how did you start your career in DEI or Social Impact?
I started out at Exclusive Brands as the Executive Vice President of Business Development and Director of Social Equity. What really made me want to be a part of the cannabis industry is the potential to be a catalyst for so much change. This industry was just budding when I came on board, and I wanted Exclusive’s footprint to be a positive one – to set standards for other companies in terms of social equity. There’s no reason for people anywhere in the US to be imprisoned for marijuana-related felonies, but especially in states that are profiting off of the taxes paid by cannabis companies.
What brought you to where you are?
My team. My team wanted to pursue cannabis and I was a little hesitant – I wasn’t familiar with the industry and frankly, I was nervous. But it’s the best and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’m so grateful to my team for helping me get here and supporting all the initiatives I’m a part of and all the goals I’m working towards.
Tell us about a personal experience on why our world needs more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
It can be your own experience or something you have witnessed.
You don’t have to look far to see the effects of structural racism, sexism, ableism, etc. We have a mostly straight-white-male-dominated industry like many others. My industry was built on the backs of black and brown people disenfranchised by the system. We live in a world that claims to care about DEI, but typically our society only supports it in theory. When you ask companies to put this into practice, it’s a whole different story. Something that recently happened to me was being dropped by my primary care physician because I tested positive for marijuana, which I use medicinally. This was by a hospital system that claims to care about DEI – but is allowing blanket ableist policies to affect patients’ lives.
What does DEI mean to you?
DEI isn’t a mantra or an instagram post – it means having policies that allow for structural protection for people across the board. Whether it’s for black and brown people trying to join the industry, or people with disabilities trying to make it through their workweek – companies should be conscious of how their policies are affecting their employees and their communities. If your policies are negatively impacting people, or simply keeping up the status quo – our instagram posts and random donations aren’t as impactful as you think they are.
What is your proudest moment as a DEI professional?
I recently got one of our Social Equity applicants pre-qualified to open a provisioning and retail center. It was a great feat as he had a marijuana felony on his record that was completely absurd. He was someone who was completely disenfranchised by the system, and it affected his life in so many ways from the stigma that’s associated with being charged with a felony, to losing his trade licenses due to regulatory changes. Getting him pre-qualified and helping him through the licensing process really made me proud of our work here. It also made me really sad – I know there are so many people like him without the resources to get licensed, and I hope to help as many people as I can.
Why is DEI important to you as an individual?
I’ve been on the receiving end of sexism and ableism for the majority of my life. I’ve faced discrimination and predatory behavior – but I’ve also witnessed other people face issues far worse. I’ve always been a very empathic person, and that’s why it’s important to me. I hate knowing how many people are suffering due to the inequalities in our world, and it can be so overwhelming at times, and that’s as someone who isn’t even experiencing the worst of it. The only thing I can do is work every day to make any sort of difference I can.
If you could change one thing in terms of DEI, what would that be?
Companies have been doing more to ensure they become more conscious about the steps they can take to support the well-being of the individuals in their community is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to dismantle the structural racism and inequity that still makes up America’s justice system framework. Social justice and reparations should not only be granted to those who have the knowledge (and therefore ability) to express agency in their natural rights, but to every person. Hopefully as more private institutions internally observe areas of inequity and revise their policies, as more voices are being supported and amplified, our country’s legislature will follow suit.
What is stopping your community, organization or company from achieving a more equal and equitable world?
We still have so many people that won’t even acknowledge that our systems are all based on inequity and structural racism. When you can’t even address a problem, how are you supposed to fix it?
Why did you want to do this interview?
It’s always my hope that if I can explain why this is so important to not only myself, but my company and our industry, that other companies will follow suit. I hope organizations start recognizing all the ways that diversity and inclusion can enrich their companies. At the end of the day, it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s also the profitable thing to do.
This is part of our Diversity and Social Impact Thought Leader Series