WYLLISA BENNETT, publicist du jour


Marvin Washington, NFL Super Bowl Winner
Bonita “Bo” Money, founder of Women Abuv Ground
Ariel Clark, chair of LA Cannabis Task Force
Larry Banegas, founder of  the Kuseyaay Spiritual and Healing Center

LOS ANGELES – The Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo (SWCCExpo) picked a great time to convene in Arizona, especially since there’s an initiative on November’s ballot to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older. Arizona is already one of 25 states along with D.C. that has legalized cannabis for medical use, and a vote for “Yes on Prop 205” will regulate marijuana like alcohol. Thousands are expected to convene in downtown Phoenix for the second annual SWCCExpo on October 14-16, 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center. The conference will feature a variety of speakers, addressing an assortment of issues related to the cannabis industry – such as legislation, advocacy, finance, healthcare and wellness, and product trends. 

The SWCCExpo tapped several cannabis experts from different industries to talk candidly about a growing concern in the cannabis “green rush” -- that is, diversity. Former NFL Super Bowl winner Marvin Washington; cannapreneur Bonita “Bo” Money, founder of Women Abuv Ground; legal eagle Ariel Clark of the Cannabis Task Force; and Larry Banegas, MSW, an expert on Native American culture and founder of the Kuseyaay Spiritual and Healing Center will address diversity in a panel discussion, titled “Diversity in Cannabis,” slated for 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center. 

Thanks to the de-regulation of marijuana for medical and recreational use, the cannabis business is exploding, with sales estimated to reach $7 billion this year. It’s projected that the cannabis industry will top $35 billion annually by 2020. Still, minorities, namely African Americans and Latinos, may be left behind in the economic opportunities of the legal marijuana industry. 

Money said that African Americans and Latinos are poised to miss the “green rush” for several reasons – that is, the lack of information about the legal use of medical marijuana; the cultural stigma associated with marijuana; the expensive start-up and application fees; and most importantly, the racial discrimination tied to drugs. “African American and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, leading to mass incarceration,” she explained. Because of criminal records, a large percentage of minorities are unable to participate in the business of cannabis due to state laws governing the industry. 

"We can only achieve diversity in the medical cannabis market if it's open to new businesses and entrepreneurs. That means we have to advocate for laws and policies that don't play favorites," added Ariel Clark, founder of Clark Neubert, LLC and chair of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force. "Without laws that support an open market, new businesses won't be able to operate. The time for communities to educate themselves and organize is now."

NFLer Washington has been a vocal advocate for medical marijuana in the NFL for managing the pain of the brain by football players, namely concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Still, he stresses the need for inclusion of minorities in the cannabis business. “We want more than diversity, but inclusion,” said Washington.  "We need to stop settling for diversity, and instead, embrace inclusion by having a seat at the table in the cannabis industry to facilitate the decision-making of this burgeoning industry.”

Banegas, a former tribal councilman who has had a hand in establishing the multi-billion dollar Native American gaming industry at Barona Resort & Casino, says the cannabis industry can economically transform Native American reservations, much like the gaming industry. "Lessons learned from establishing the successful Native American gaming industry also apply to the cannabis industry. Casinos are not a good fit for every reservation.  However, tribes looking to become established in the cannabis industry should be aware of these principles," said Banegas, MSW.


•  Marvin Washington —   a former NFL player, Washington retired after 11 years, playing with three different teams – that is, the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers. He was a member of the Denver Broncos 1998 Super Bowl winning team and was voted by Sports Illustrated as the 36th best New York Jet of all-time. A voice for former players in the NFL’s concussion lawsuit, Washington addresses the truth about the outcome as well as the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Now an advocate for all-natural, non-habit forming cannabis, Washington is speaking out on the topic of using cannabinoids as neuroprotectants as well as ways to alleviate the nation’s number one health epidemic – that is, prescription opioid abuse and addiction.  

•  Bonita “Bo” Money – A woman in weed, cannapreneur, Money is one of the few women of color in the emerging, billion dollar cannabis business. Born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in Monterey, CA,  she is the co-creator of That Glass Jar ™ , a cannabis-infused topical, and founder of  Women Abuv Ground (WAG), a professional networking organization dedicated to educating and empowering minority women in the emerging cannabis industry. By providing resources and supporting women of color in the cannabis industry, the organization is creating a diversified culture, celebrating the brilliance of women entrepreneurs, business owners and community leaders. For more information about Women Abuv Ground, visit

•  Ariel Clark --  Clark is a founding partner of Clark Neubert, LLP, a leading law firm in the California and national cannabis industry, and the chair of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force. The task force is dedicated to creating a fair and vibrant cannabis industry in the city of Los Angeles by establishing a safe, lawful, and responsible local licensing system that aligns with the business and license categories authorized by California state law. Clark’s clients include licensed dispensaries, growers, and manufacturers in various states, including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan. Clark earned her juris doctor ‘s degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), and was awarded a bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her professional affiliations include member of the California State Bar and Venice Chamber of Commerce, board member for California NORML, founder of Elevate LA (a Los Angeles cannabis industry based nonprofit), member of and policy advisor to California Growers Association, and member of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. For more information about the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, visit

•  Larry Banegas, MSW – An expert on Native American culture, namely, Kumeyaay, Banegas is a cannapreneur, a cannabis activist and lifelong human rights advocate. In 2014, he founded the Kuseyaay (medicine person) Spiritual and Healing Center on the Barona reservation, located east of San Diego, Calif.  The Kuseyaay Healing Center welcomes spiritual leaders, healers, and community leaders from around the world, seeking the ancient practice of healing the mind, body and spirit through natural ways.  Banegas believes in combining the ancient ways of healing with advances in today’s medicine. He is a private investor in three California cannabis dispensaries, and feels that cannabis is a sacred botanical, and its restoration by sovereign nations is the next step in exercising Native American human rights. Banegas is an advocate for medical marijuana for the treatment of various ailments, including alcohol and prescription opioid addiction. Interestingly, Banegas served as tribal councilman on the Barona reservation and help establish the now multi-billion dollar Native American gaming industry. Today, Barona Resort & Casino is a premier Southern California, family-friendly gaming destination, hosting hundreds of thousands visitors each year. 


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo (SWCCExpo)

“Diversity in Cannabis,” panel discussion

1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. 

Phoenix Convention Center South Hall


The Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo (SWCCExpo) is an environment for cannabis industry members, entrepreneurs, local leaders, companies, job seekers and curious individuals to come and learn about the rapidly expanding cannabis industry and the changing culture. This year’s theme is “The World of Tomorrow,” and the convention will focus on the potential transitions and changes coming to Arizona’s marijuana policy in 2016.

The conference includes seminars from top industry leaders, and an exhibit hall filled with businesses showcasing industry related products and services. The SWCCExpo is sponsored by Weedmaps and the Phoenix New Times. For more information, visit