Do you want a delivery company that does more than just bring cannabis to your doorstep? If you live in New Jersey, you’re in luck. East Orange-based Roll Up Life isn’t your typical cannabis delivery service. Alongside bringing your fave products right to your home, Roll Up Life is creating positive change in the cannabis industry through their social equity program. They don’t just advocate for a conscious cannabis industry. They’re putting their money where their mouths are to support other minority businesses in their community and create accessible opportunities for BIPOC investors. The legalization of adult recreational cannabis use in the Garden State is making that easier. We chatted with Precious Osagie-Erese, co-founder and COO of Roll Up Life. She filled us in on what they’ve been up to and what to expect from Roll Up Life as the state really gets legal.
Give us the scoop on your personal background. How did your career in local government inform your move into cannabis?
Being in local government prior to entering the cannabis industry was a blessing in disguise! As we all know, city/local approval is a non-negotiable step in winning a cannabis license pretty much anywhere. By working directly in the office of East Orange’s Mayor, Ted R. Green, I started to understand the nuances of local government. I learned the specific needs of the city in all realms. That runs the gamut from public works, employment, training, redevelopment, and planning. I learned what residents were fond of and against. I also learned how businesses were formed in the city and how the city manages that delicate relationship with business owners. It made me understand thoroughly how to be a great community partner for a city I not only work in, but one that I love deeply.
How it all started
Both I and my Co-founder/CEO, Tiyahnn Bryant, grew up in East Orange. We met as young kids at our city’s rec center. We know, from firsthand accounts that our city needs a new state-of-the-art recreation facility. That’s something we built into our community action plan. We know that our city wants to host track and field tournaments but can’t because our main stadium doesn’t include all the facilities to host those meets. That’s also in our plan. So working in local government and converting to the cannabis industry made this transition very personal. It was all interconnected. We both knew we were building Roll Up Life, not for ourselves, but for the benefit of our entire community. That’s been our north star.
What’s Roll Up Life and why did you start it?
Roll Up Life is the premier CBD delivery and distribution service in New Jersey. We’re so excited to rev up our venture from just delivering CBD products to THC products in the freshly legalized adult-use Garden State market. It was Tiyahnn who actually came up with the idea to build a cannabis delivery service. That was back in 2016 when our state’s medical marijuana program started to gain some momentum.
How did you bring Roll Up Life to fruition?
At first, when Tiyahnn brought up the idea, I turned it down. I was nervous about the legal cannabis industry. After experiencing what the War on Drugs has done to my community and closest friends, it was completely foreign to me. Back when the industry first went legal in California and Colorado, many of us here thought it was a trick or something to further incriminate Black people. Not Tiyhann though. He spent a year doing a crazy amount of research on the industry and traveling to mature markets to meet with others in the space. He brought all that information back to me, and I was sold. I always tell him I joined him in this venture because he was so passionate about it. Then, when I went on my own educational journey about the industry and the plant, that passion became mine as well.
How is New Jersey legalization helping pave the way for Roll Up Life?
We built our business by really understanding the trajectory of the New Jersey cannabis industry. When we started, we knew it was a matter of time before our state legalized cannabis for adult use. We found that one of the main underserved gaps in the medical marijuana program was delivery. So we started looking to solve that issue. That journey also led us to the disparagingly low numbers of BIPOC cannabis license holders compared to the high arrest rates of people of color for marijuana-related issues. We were no longer just building a delivery service. We realized that we’re the helm of creating change in this industry. So we grabbed the bull by the horns and never looked back! We formally incorporated in 2019 and have been working round the clock to bring New Jersey the very best and safest cannabis delivery service.
You’ve made a special commitment to social equity programs in your business. Tell us about it.
We’re a very community oriented business. Both Tiyahnn and I always say that we’re products of our hometown. East Orange really made us who we are today. That’s why we’re more than just business partners. We’re also best friends. So we made a commitment to make sure Roll Up Life’s social equity program helps our community prosper and to support other minority entrepreneurs who are looking for footing in this space. One of the initiatives we’re planning on launching is called “It Takes a Village.” It’s a vehicle that will allow our family and friends to have ownership in our company. With that, we can help create generational wealth for everyone, not just us.
So far, how has your social equity program manifested?
One of the greatest accomplishments of our social equity program to date is that we’ve helped to secure $100,000 in funding for 5 minority businesses. Each received a $20,000 grant, in partnership with Cognitive Harmony Technologies company. It’s interesting because Tiyahnn and I are still in the middle of our own capital raise. But we found an opportunity that would benefit others and give them access to the resources we already had. We decided that’s exactly the kind of company we are. We would do that 10 times over and plan to do it again in the future.
Describe Roll Up Life in 5 words
Cannabis delivery made simple and cool.
Has your social equity focus opened up any doors for you?
Tons of doors actually. As two 26-year-old African Americans in the cannabis space, we don’t have the luxury to build a silent company. We have to build out loud. I always say, if you plan on being in this space, you should be an advocate first.
The fact that Roll Up Life is being recognized as a thought leader for social equity programs in the NJ cannabis industry has really propelled our brand. We aim to be known as pure advocates who are demanding change. People see through BS. By that, I mean when companies slap on a DEI plan and call it a day. We’re not that. We’ve been educating our community about this industry. We’ve been sharing resources so more people of color can join this space. And we’ve also held webinars and workshops to further advocate for economic justice. It’s literally who we are. Because of that, our grassroots efforts have put us at the forefront as the leaders in NJ on delivery, transportation, and social equity. It’s really dope that people see us that way. We’re very proud and humbled by it.
Has your relationship with cannabis changed since New Jersey legalized recreational cannabis use for adults?
Most definitely. I was absolutely that shy consumer. Only my really good friends knew that I smoked weed. Way back in the day, when we were conditioned to accept that marijuana was the devil’s lettuce, I never spoke about it publicly. I wouldn’t even consume in public settings, outside of a friend’s house. Since joining the industry and building this business, I’ve done a full 180. I’m more than comfortable about my consuming habits. I talk about it often on my socials. I’m even very picky about the products I use. I love feminine accessories like House of Puff’s ceramic one hitter pipe. Now, I feel very free.
What’s in your stash right now?
I’m an indica girl, full stop!
I really love consuming cannabis to relax and decompress. It also helps with my insomnia. Trouble sleeping is the worst! Right now, I’m smoking on Granddaddy Purple and Ice Cream Cake. Both for deep mental relaxation. Building a cannabis startup can be insanely overwhelming. After a long day, it’s hard to get my mind to stop racing. When I consume those two strains, I do get giggly and I get the munchies. I usually have dinner shortly afterward and head right to sleep. It’s a lovely nighttime regimen.
Who do you think benefits the most from social equity programs about cannabis?
The BIPOC community, women, and those who were incarcerated for marijuana.
Why does the cannabis industry need social equity programs?
Think about why we need social equity programs. Let’s define equity: the quality of being fair and impartial. When has this industry been fair to any of the groups I listed above? Take your time. I’ll wait. Without an intentional effort to ensure that marginalized groups who want to join this industry have a fair chance, it would be extremely hard for these groups to get their rightful seat at the table.
What do social equity programs do?
A recent Business Insider article revealed that roughly 2% of all CEOs in the cannabis industry are Black. Let that sink in. Only 2%. That’s why we have to continue to push for equity programs so this gap doesn’t continue to widen. Now, let’s break down what it even takes to be a part of this industry—capital, great lawyers, strong accounting, a team of qualified people, real estate, and that’s just to name a few. Of course, if you’re sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars, these resources are easy to get. But the groups I mentioned earlier don’t always have access to these necessities. Social equity programs help level the playing field so the rest of us have a chance to compete with the well-funded. Social equity programs can provide access to grants. They can help with the application process. And they can provide educational/operational workshops to train individuals in skills for this industry. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what strong social equity programs can do for minority entrepreneurs.
How is Roll Up Life planning to disrupt the cannabis industry?
Honestly, by being ourselves. No matter where this business takes us, we plan to always remain true to our mission. That’s to create generational wealth for our community. We do this while ensuring that we see change in the cannabis industry, such that more minority operators have the opportunity to grow and lead the way. Remember, this industry was built on the backs of Black and brown people who were incarcerated because of the War on Drugs and the stigmas associated with marijuana. I’ll be damned if I sit by and watch this industry be completely run by the “old boys club.”
That’s how we plan to disrupt.
Do you have plans to expand Roll Up Life and your work with social equity programs to other states outside of New Jersey?
This show is definitely heading on the road. Especially as we see legalization blaze through the east coast. We want to make sure that we’re not only leading the way as the premiere cannabis delivery service in New Jersey. We also want to ensure that other states are producing strong social equity programs and creating opportunities for minority companies to have a fighting chance to obtain licenses. We’re working with several organizations to create incubator and accelerator programs that help eliminate many of the barriers that make it really difficult to enter this industry.
How can people keep up with what you and Roll Up Life are up to?
Definitely follow our social media page @rollup.life! We’re always posting educational content on the cannabis industry and just cool stuff. I’m chatty, if you can’t tell. I love meeting new people and engaging on all topics cannabis. Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected].