by Jillian Baxter
Sustainability icon Judy Wicks does not want John Boehner, or people like him, bogarting the burgeoning cannabis and hemp business. Boehner, former Speaker of the House and longtime defender of anti-marijuana legislation, now stands to make millions from the sale of marijuana investment firm Acreage Holdings as a member of the board. Meanwhile, during his time as Speaker, 420,000 people were arrested for marijuana charges.
“This is like a gift,” Wicks says, “and we are giving it away to big companies.”
As Pennsylvania moves closer to legalizing recreational marijuana, Wicks sees a golden opportunity for small in-state farms and businesses. Wicks wants to ensure state businesses have a chance to play catch-up before West Coast companies move into Pennsylvania’s nascent markets.
The hemp and cannabis trades could help to reconnect and redevelop local supply chains, according to Wicks. “It wasn’t long ago when the urban and the rural communities co-created regional economies—local supply chains based on mutual respect, trust and so on, and their survival was dependent on that. When corporate globalization came along and severed all those local supply chains and started dumping cheap foreign goods and food from other places, it put out of business a lot of family farmers and working-class factory workers.”
Proud Pennsylvania, which Wicks recently founded, is a nonprofit designed to stimulate the growth of local supply chains producing sustainable goods across the state. “Our mission is to unite the rural and urban communities around the shared vision for regional economies that are self-reliant, thereby moving wealth and power from corporations back to our communities.”
Wicks and Proud Pennsylvania are organizing a hemp coalition made up of farmers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers to support local production and local ownership as the industry emerges in Pennsylvania. “What we’re trying to do is actually build local supply chains by connecting the dots between the local owners of these businesses that will support each other, share information and buy from each other.” Most importantly, the coalition works to prevent outside corporations from monopolizing business opportunities.
With some sway in Harrisburg through the Proud Pennsylvania Working Group, a division of the organization made up of senators and representatives advised by Proud Pennsylvania on legislation that supports its mission, Wicks hopes to expunge the records of people with low-level marijuana charges and provide training to make them competitive against corporations like Boehner’s.
Wicks sees Proud Pennsylvania as a culmination of her life’s work. “We can no longer depend on long-distance supply chains to deliver basic needs of energy, food, fuel and building materials. By building regional economies, we’re not only cutting down on the carbons of long distance shipping, but we’re also building our self-reliance and decreasing our dependence on these shipping routes that can be disrupted by weather and social upheaval.”