Cal NORML hosted a statewide Zoom meeting for all interested activists on Wednesday, December 2 at 4 PM PST.
Our special guest was Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee was born in segregated El Paso, TX and attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School, where she was taught by the Sisters of Loretto, an order dedicated to promoting justice and peace. After grammar school, Congresswoman Lee moved to San Fernando, California and worked with the local NAACP to integrate her high school cheerleading squad.
As a single mother raising two sons, Congresswoman Lee attended Mills College and received public assistance while building a better life for her family. As president of Mills College’s Black Student Union, she invited Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak on campus. As a result of this meeting, Congresswoman Lee registered to vote for the first time and worked on Congresswoman Chisholm’s historic presidential campaign, including serving as her delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, FL.
In 1990, Lee was elected to the California State Assembly, where she served until 1996 when she was elected to the State Senate. As a California legislator, Congresswoman Lee authored 67 bills and resolutions that were signed into law by Republican Governor Pete Wilson. As the first African American woman elected to the State Senate from Northern California, Congresswoman Lee created and presided over the California Commission on the Status of African American Males and the California Legislative Black Caucus, while working to defeat the punitive “three strikes law.”
Since 1998, Lee has served in Congress, representing the East Bay of California. Currently, Congresswoman Lee serves on the Budget Committee and the powerful Appropriations Committee, which oversees all federal government spending. She serves on three subcommittees (Vice Chair, State and Foreign Operations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration) of the Appropriations Committee.
Congresswoman Lee is the only African American woman in Democratic Leadership, serving as Co-Chair of the Policy and Steering Committee. As Co-Chair, Rep. Lee works to ensure that committees reflect the diversity, dynamism, and integrity of the Democratic Caucus. She also works to advance the policies that comprise the Democratic “For the People” agenda. In addition, she currently serves as the Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (111th Congress) and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (109th & 110th Congresses).
Justin Strekal is the Political Director for NORML, where he serves as an advocate to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and to reform our nation’s laws to no longer treat marijuana consumers as second-class citizens. Before working on drug policy, he focused on tax, wage, and campaign finance reform as well as managed electoral campaigns throughout the country for positions in every level of government.
Also joining us will be Hirsh Jain, Director of Government Affairs at Caliva, a California cannabis brand, and for the Los Angeles chapter of NORML. Before working in cannabis, Hirsh was a Government Affairs Manager at Airbnb in San Francisco. Prior to that, Hirsh was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company in New York City. Hirsh has a B.A. in Philosophy from UC Berkeley, where he worked as the Cannabis Lead in the Campus Public Defender’s Office, defending students that were accused of cannabis violations by the University. He also has a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where his focus was the legal architecture of The War on Drugs and its disproportionate racial impacts.
And Ishaq Ali of Eaze will join us to talk about the company’s Momentum program.
Before starting at Eaze, Ishaq graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fresno State with a degree in Political Science, Middle Eastern studies, and a certificate of legal studies focusing on War on Terror and War on Drug Policy. After a fellowship at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, he shifted his focus to cannabis related policy, studying the disproportionate effects of decriminalization vs. legalization and its effects on communities of color. Ishaq started at Eaze in late 2017 focusing on growth and analytics, eventually moving to the legal team in 2018 to focus on building internal compliance programs as the regulated market began to emerge, helping Eaze launch over 200 cities in CA. Ishaq then shifted focus to social impact in early 2019, tasked with building Momentum, Eaze’s business accelerator focusing on supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs. Since the fall of 2019 he has been directing and managing the Momentum Program, supporting 10 small businesses based out of CA and OR.
And Eaze’s business accelerator program, Momentum, helps participants build and expand relationships with like-minded founders, executives, investors and industry leaders working to transform cannabis. As cannabis legalization continues, Momentum is here to foster unique brands, support affected communities with greater revenue, and ultimately secure a more diverse cannabis culture. Because more voices, more perspectives, and more vibrancy will create a better industry for all.