Revolution Enterprises, an Illinois-based multi-state cannabis operator, has hired LGBTQ advocate Candace Gingrich as Vice President and Head of Business Development for the company’s newly expanded operations in Florida. With Revolution securing a vertically integrated license only in May, Gingrich’s duties will include “helping to identify new business opportunities, market the company and its products, stand up new business operations, engage with state and local policy makers and regulators and create partnerships with patient groups and other stakeholders,” according to a company press release.
Gingrich has worked to advance social policies for the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years with the Human Rights Campaign. They arrive at the cannabis industry with an eye toward inclusivity and greater awareness of the spectrum of unique health care challenges facing LGBTQ patients, consumers and employees.
“I needed a way to continue some of the work that I had been doing for the past 20 years—creating spaces for LGBTQ people to be more present and to be more involved in all facets of life in an equal and inclusive way,” Gingrich says. “And it's really, I think, a great combination and a great opportunity for me that I just didn't want to pass up. With Revolution being a national leader in the cannabis industry, looking at this new market in Florida, it’s a combination of their wanting to be successful and to get the best product to the patients who need to care—and wanting to do so through a lens of social justice and inclusion.”
In May 2019, Hart’s Nursery won one of eight new Medical Marijuana Treatment Center licenses (a vertically integrated license, the only type offered by the state). Hart’s Nursery CEO Mark de Souza is also the CEO of Revolution Enterprises; the new operation in Florida will be consolidated under the name Revolution Florida, which Gingrich will help lead. “Candace’s skillsets in creating partnerships, marketing, and advocacy -- and our shared passion for social equity -- made Candace a natural choice to lead business development and marketing in Florida,” de Souza said in a public statement announcing the hire.
The Florida market includes more than 200,000 medical cannabis patients—with thousands more registering each week. Gingrich says they’d like to see more active relationship-building with the LGBTQ community within that population and within the growing numbers of medical cannabis industry employees and entrepreneurs.
“I think a lot of [challenges are] unfortunately carried over from the ways that that LGBTQ people have been kept out of or made to not feel welcome in medical circles—period,” Gingrich says. “We know that there's a history of queer people not getting the health care that they deserve or need. We see health care providers who are not culturally competent, who are not aware of the unique challenges of being an LGBTQ person and taking care.”
They cited the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club and the compassionate care movement that helped spark support for Proposition 215 in California in 1996.
Gingrich is looking forward to “working with people in the health care aspect of it, so that they're better informed about the unique needs of an LGBTQ patient, that they understand the history of why some patients are hesitant to come forward. It's a stigma for somebody, having had a bad experience in the past with a doctor with a physician.” To clear that stigma, they plan to work with Revolution to create dispensary experiences that are not just LGBTQ-friendly, but “LGBTQ-forward.”
“We need to start getting people to see medical cannabis for what it is, and that's health care,” Gingrich says. “It's in everyone's best interest to make sure that we can get that health care to the people who need it.”