For Alyssa Estrada, the “War on Drugs” is more than an ongoing social justice issue — it’s a crisis that hits close to home.
A Latina woman from Chicago’s South Side, Estrada serves as Green Thumb’s social impact project manager. In her role, she gets to help fight against the negative impacts of the War on Drugs, which disproportionately affects minority populations across the country.
Estrada’s role at the company reflects her lifelong desire to make a difference in people’s lives. After graduating with a degree in engineering, she co-founded NeighborFood Meals, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Black- and Latinx-owned restaurants in Chicago through fundraising and community partnerships.
Through that experience, Estrada realized she wanted impact to define her day-to-day work, which led her to Green Thumb Industries. She currently oversees initiatives across the company designed to give back to the community, including the social impact pillar of the Good Green brand, which was launched in 2021 to support organizations that aim to reverse the harm caused by the War on Drugs.
“I always like to say that we’re not just a good neighbor selling good weed — we’re trying to do good, too,” Estrada said.
WHAT IS GOOD GREEN?
Good Green is Green Thumb’s cannabis brand with a strong social impact arm that focuses on supporting organizations that serve Black and Brown communities by creating change in three key areas: education, employment and expungement. In short: It’s green that is good and does good.
As the company does good for the communities its industry was built upon and the local regions its business serves, it also aims to empower its own people — the ones who make its business possible. It does this at a companywide level through initiatives like employee resource groups, but also at individual dispensary locations and events, where collaboration and a shared mission shine.
People Operations Specialist Kara Webb gets to play a direct role in engaging employees companywide and ensuring their needs are heard and addressed. Having fostered an interest in social impact during college as president of a student-run center for gender, sexuality and activism, Webb continues cultivating this passion for uplifting others at Green Thumb Industries. They’re currently co-chair of two ERGs, LGBTHC+ Alliance and Black Originators, Leaders and Doers (also called B.O.L.D.), both of which serve as a safe space for them and their peers to share their voices.
“The feedback that we get about our ERGs and how much they’ve impacted people’s lives is hugely motivating to me,” Webb said.
The heart of Green Thumb Industries rests on its people, who are always willing to support each other, regardless of their job title. Toni Belli, district manager for New Jersey and New York, saw this play out firsthand across retail stores in New Jersey during the launch of adult-use sales in the state. To make the opening a success, team members of all different roles and departments pitched in to help anywhere they could.
“It was humbling to see such a diverse group of individuals working together,” Belli said. “When one of us is in need, there’s a group willing and able to help without asking for anything in return.”
By uplifting local communities and creating an inclusive workplace culture, team members at Green Thumb Industries are constantly in pursuit of good — both good green and good intentions.
“Our team truly believes in our mission to promote well-being through the power of cannabis, and because of that shared belief, our team deeply cares for our patients, customers and one another,” Estrada said. “I’m so inspired by my peers every single day.”
‘Fighting the Good Fight’
What do haircuts and resume-building tutorials have to do with empowering those affected by the War on Drugs?
Estrada said both of these things were offered at a recent career fair that Green Thumb’s Good Green brand held in conjunction with the social impact cannabis brand 40 Tons. The initiative was geared toward helping those formerly incarcerated for marijuana possession discover career opportunities.
According to Estrada, this focus on employment, coupled with a commitment to education and expungement, define their efforts to drive sustained progress in its communities. And in order to make this possible, Good Green has invested over $1.5 million in nonprofits that are dedicated to “fighting the good fight.”
Green Thumb also strives to make a difference in its retail dispensaries with its “first day profits” program, through which the organization donates profits from each dispensary’s grand opening to a local nonprofit. Estrada added that the company also leverages a “round up” program, which means customers in 13 markets can round up their in-store purchase to the nearest dollar to make a nonprofit donation.
“We’re trying to find that balance between being a large national company while grounding ourselves in having that local impact,” she said.
Aside from these initiatives, there are plenty of ways for employees to involve themselves directly in charitable work. Belli said her team has taken part in numerous volunteer activities, such as park clean-ups, toy drives and soup kitchens, in addition to working with Veterans groups and senior living facilities to educate these populations about the benefits of cannabis usage to treat pain.
Belli is especially proud of the company’s partnership with Oasis, a New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and children in need by providing food, clothing and educational opportunities. Through this organization, Belli and her teammates have served food, tutored women and children, and organized drives.
For Belli, initiatives such as this one have a tremendous influence on the people they serve as well as the individuals who work for Green Thumb Industries.
“Many of our team members grew up in these communities, so it’s a full-circle moment for some of them,” she said. “It makes me proud to work for an organization and an industry that allows for such access and opportunities.”
EMPOWERING WOMEN, UPHOLDING AN INDUSTRY
Green Thumb Industries is always searching for ways to support both the cannabis industry and the populations it empowers. During Women’s History Month earlier this year, Estrada shared that the company hosted a drive to collect hygiene products across seven markets. Overall, more than 23,000 items were collected with the potential to impact nearly 1,200 individuals.
Given the success of this initiative, the company is planning to host the drive again on a broader national scale. “The team’s really excited to continue it,” Estrada said. “It really resonated with our customers and patients, which was awesome to see.”
Creating Community From Within
As team members at Green Thumb Industries drive change for others, they rely on their own differences to cultivate a culture grounded in inclusion.
Estrada explained that, to embrace the value of employees’ differences, the company focuses on four core pillars: representation, belonging, community and entrepreneurship. These pillars are brought to life in many different ways, from implementing unconscious bias training to establishing ERGs that welcome individuals from all walks of life.
For Webb, the company’s ERGs have served as a safe haven. The discrimination they’ve experienced as a Black queer person is what compelled them to help lead both the LGBTHC+ Alliance and Black Originators, Leaders and Doers.
These groups, both of which have grown tremendously over the years, have given Webb and their peers a comforting sense of community.
“It was definitely important for me to meet other people at the company who look like me or have a connection to me in some way,” they said. “We’re in community together.”
While employees play a direct role in shaping the culture, leaders also often step in to help. With support from the company’s senior VP of retail , Estrada helped establish the “Siempre Juntos,” or “Joint Together,” ERG as a way to enable Latinx team members to connect. Through this ERG, employees have had the chance to share their unique stories and inspire their teammates.
According to Webb, leaders continuously show support for team members, even on a personal level. Upon experiencing severe PTSD symptoms one particular workday, Webb felt compelled to confide in their manager about their condition, despite being afraid to do so.
But Webb quickly realized that their fears were unfounded, as their manager showed empathy rather than misunderstanding. In their mind, this instance is a perfect reflection of Green Thumb Industries’ people-first culture.
“We care about the people who we work with before we care about the profits we make or the margins we’re trying to hit,” Webb said. “We’re all part of a team that’s driven toward a mission we believe in.”
“We’re all part of a team that’s driven toward a mission we believe in.”
A Brand to Believe In
Webb embraces the power of Green Thumb Industries’ mission every day — literally.
In using medicinal cannabis to treat their PTSD symptoms, they feel especially connected to the work they accomplish at the company.
“Being a patient that believes in our brand makes every day worth waking up for,” Webb said. “I know that on the other side of the work that I’m doing, there’s someone who’s just like me and needs us to do the best that we can.”
For Webb and their peers, there’s a lot to love about working at Green Thumb Industries, including the connection that comes with it. Estrada, for example, spends her workdays communicating with colleagues across the company, which is an element of her job she especially enjoys.
She noted that it’s easy to build relationships with her coworkers, considering everyone shares a passion for the company’s mission and its values. These values — “We’re humble,” “We’re hardworking,” “We’re grateful,” “We’re transparent” and “We have integrity” — closely align with her own, making her work doubly fulfilling.
“These are all principles that are deeply ingrained in me, given the way I was raised,” Estrada said. “It has been great to show up as my authentic self and continue to be supported and grow here on a personal and professional level.”
At Green Thumb Industries, everyone has the chance to evolve — and for Belli, there’s no better way to grow as a person than by giving back to those who need help the most. In her mind, having the ability to marry one’s career with community service is what sets the company apart.
“Every day, I’m not only given the opportunity to make an impact, but am encouraged to do so,” Belli said.