By Renee Smaldino
Mahlate Hagos is from West Oakland, California and according to her recent interview in Forbes Magazine, “[cannabis] was everywhere” when she was growing up. During that time, and for many other reasons, the perception of cannabis was much different than it is today, and medical dispensaries were not yet to fruition. Her mother impacted her decision to not use cannabis until later in life, as she did not want her around it. In the interview, she divulges…
“It took for me to go to college to actually try cannabis for the first time. One of my first encounters trying cannabis was my freshman year […] I was stressed over school work so my friend told me to smoke. I tried it and it helped me feel relaxed. It actually felt amazing! I started learning about the benefits of cannabis while in college, it was starting to spark my interest.” (1) Forbes Magazine. July 2020.
That spark began illuminating the Bay Area a few years ago and is now starting to make some major fireworks down the San Diego coast. Mahlate took that experience and her innate passion to become the co-founder of DIOS (Doing It Ourselves), a 100% Black-owned Type-11 cannabis distribution company. Mahlate is deeply rooted in the values instilled in her as a first generation Ethiopian, as well as, the desire to “build a strong brand, remain fully vested in her community, and to serve as a living testament that we actually can “Do It Ourselves!” (2)
Which she did. Mahlate is that testament. DIOS is that testament. DIOS was able to obtain a license through Oakland’s Equity Program. Oakland’s Equity Program was implemented for people that live in areas that had a disproportionately high number of cannabis-related arrests to be given priority in licensing, also, guaranteeing that “at least half of all permits be issued to Equity applicants.” Under these measures DIOS has planted their seeds into the cannabis industry, which have flourished into new programs and incentives within the city of Oakland, as well as, spearheading expansion of product throughout the state of California.
Since DIOS is Equity Sourced Certified, they are acknowledged as a business that has been licensed through the Equity Permit policy; which they now have the right to promote where they see fit. This is a huge deal in transparency within the cannabis community especially for those who believe in purchasing and producing Equity Sourced products. On top of being Equity Sourced Certified, DIOS is also environmentally conscious and completely D.I.Y.
From sourcing the flower, packaging, transportation, accounting and all digital media…they are definitely more than your average start-up company, as DIOS is just as active in their own community and as they are in the cannabis community and encourage others to always move forward.
In the same Forbes article, Mahlate explains, “Preaching black ownership is also a priority for me. The cannabis industry was built on the backs of black people who are now incarcerated for doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Only difference is, I have a license. It doesn’t feel right. I would like to help people transition out of that situation and into the legal side. It’s only right!”
This is clearly a huge issue in the cannabis industry and in contemporary society. How are people of color still in jail for the same thing others are profiting off of?
The complex social issues that we are faced with, unfortunately, do not evade themselves in the face of cannabis. Though, we are happy to acknowledge programs like the Oakland Equity Program, as well as, organizations such as the Last Prisoner Project, that making steps in the right direction by showing up and being the support that is necessary to make changes.
Because Mahlate also witnessed first-hand the negative impact that comes along with the cannabis industry and how so many people of color would come to be affected by the prison industrial complex, as well as, the criminalization of cannabis, she has made it her mission to uplift the Bay Area. She promotes her community by highlighting her roots and never shying away from opportunities to advance equity.
Understanding these issues and raising awareness for change to occur is a necessary step in the evolution of the cannabis industry and Mahlate is at the forefront of that change, but it shouldn’t only be her mission.
This should be everyone’s mission in the cannabis industry. Mahlate and her team at DIOS, who have put in so much work to give back and uplift their community, also deserve that same support.
The foundation of the cannabis industry has always been for the people. In honoring and celebrating Black History Month, we would like to acknowledge the need for more inclusivity in holding true to our values. Mankind is a community of diversity and we understand the need for equal representation and are constantly finding ways to change and grow within the industry. Let’s continue our efforts, consume consciously, support Social Equity brands like DIOS and work within our communities to make more progress possible.
For more info on DIOS, be sure to follow them on Instagram!