An Interview with DACO’s Founders: Can a Grassroots Conference Diversify the Cannabis Playing Field?


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DACO’s founders, director of partner relations Desiree Ivey (L) and director of social impact Cherron Perry-Thomas. (Photo: Courtesy of Whitney Thomas)

Last October, two Philadelphia natives launched a grassroots cannabis conference called the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities (DACO) at Temple University in a predominantly black and brown community.

When asked why the team decided to launch DACO in that particular neighborhood, founders Desiree Ivey and Cherron Perry-Thomas replied, “Often you will see events targeting black and brown people hosted at locations of lower-tier standards. We wanted to make sure that in targeting our audience we [went with] a facility of the highest excellence. We wanted a space to speak our truth and be our full selves in doing this.” The two directors felt it was important that whatever they created “be for us by us,” just like the brand FUBU was — an acronym many people remember from another decade.

Diversity in the mainstream has come to encompass different nationalities, genders, races and ethnicities wearing the same T-shirt. But that’s not the way these two felt.

“[Inclusivity] accepts people for their full selves rather than fitting people in a box and making them a standard that you want them to be,” notes Perry-Thomas, DACO’s director of social impact. “In that way, DACO sought to be a grassroots conference that didn’t ask people to be anything other than who they are.”

“In reference to our audience,” the two continue, “we are talking to people who don’t attend national cannabis meetings or conferences. Our attendees include the everyday person, street boys to professionals, who want to know how to navigate the changing cannabis landscape. They do not have connections to people in established businesses in Oregon, Colorado or New York. Nor can they afford to pay $35 to attend regular local meetups to learn. We wanted to fill this need.”

When asked if there was anything unstated in the choice and vetting of their conference panelists, Ivey, DACO’s director of partner relations, replied, “Selecting panelists was important for both of us. We wanted black and brown people who reflected the community and the audience we wanted to attend.”

Both women regularly attend many national conferences that feature the same speakers over and over; Ivey is co-owner/CEO of the Medicinally Jointed Wellness Center and is a Philly Market Leader for Women Grow Philadelphia, and Perry-Thomas is founder and president of Green Dandelion, a natural product broker group. But their experience is not that of many of their proposed target audience.

Their final panelist decisions reflected their effort to give people doing tremendous, often unheralded work an opportunity to be seen and heard. “We wanted to be able to give panelists their shine, to let them be heard and recognized for what they do as they often go unmentioned in the press. Because in our own communities we must uplift ourselves. These panelists are examples of this, individuals who are at the top of their game. They have the knowledge, have done the research and they are ready.”

“Instead of asking for access, we created the platform for participation. Because in our own communities we must uplift ourselves,” adds Perry-Thomas.

In closing, DOPE Magazine asked what can be done to support the growth of a national community organization such as DACO, and they responded, “We need sponsorships so that we can build up an even better conference for 2019.”

“We need people with the know-how to contribute their skills to help us extend our reach. Our goal is to take this grassroots conference format throughout this country and the world. Because there are so many people looking at social media salivating and wanting greater involvement.  We are here to seriously diversify the playing field. That is why it’s so important to bring speakers who can talk about opportunities, potential industry growth and our place in this process without asking, ‘Can we play, too?’ This conference shows the possibility.”

This year, DACO will take place September 27, 2019 at Temple University Medical Center. (TUMC). Follow DACO on social media @wearedaco.



Patricia A. Patton, aka CannaBoomer, is a health and wellness advocate interpreting cultural change and the legalization of the recreational and medical cannabis industry on the Boomer generation. Hollah at her on the Blog, Twitter, Linkedin or on Facebook.

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