An Ohio non-profit organization and a cannabis cultivator are working together to help individuals who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related charges to receive education in cannabis cultivation.
Riviera Creek Holdings LLC cannabis cultivator and United Returning Citizens (URC) organization, which are both based in Youngstown, Ohio, are partnering together to support a program called URC Grows. The program will provide educational and job opportunities for those who have been convicted of cannabis crimes.
URC is a non-profit organization that helps those who have been affected by mass incarceration. They assist individuals with job searches, training, financial support, education and so much more. Through URC Grows, the organization hopes to extend these services and more by partnering with Riviera Creek. “United Returning Citizens created an Education, Workforce and Business Development Training Program for the next generation of workers,” URC shares on its website. “This program will be comprehensive and unique due to the nature of program phases, and the ultimate goal of creating employment opportunities with the enrollees while they are in the course.”
Those interested in growing cannabis have plenty of options to do so, but URC’s program stands out from the crowd due to its special certification. “URC Grows seeks to be different by providing an Ohio Department of Education Approved Certification, in three focused areas. We will also provide entrepreneurial development services and land for each entrepreneur to grow on, or employment in a URC operated grow facility,” the website shares.
Dionne Dowdy, Executive Director of URC, told local news station WFMJ there is a great need for reform and support of those who have been negatively affected by cannabis charges. “There were so many people that were jailed by this and now that everyone is making money off something that they are already sitting in jail for, we want to give them an opportunity, everyone needs a second chance and these are the things that they can do that were just natural to them that they will thrive in so why not give them this opportunity,” Dowdy said.
Riviera Creek CEO Daniel Kessel added that it is imperative that this program help prepare students with everything they will need to get a job in the industry. “We at Riviera are intending to help build the overall course work, what it looks like and as they graduate, Riviera is intending to bring some of those in house so they wind up with jobs right after graduation and we’re excited for that program to begin,” said Kessel.
Three Programs in Ohio Teach All Angles of Cultivation
URC Grows is split up into three programs. The first includes an agriculture program with a focus on hydroponic and aquaponic education. The second is a full-scale education program that covers the process of hemp production, from growing to processing and sales. The final program includes a focus on medical cannabis, but will ideally prepare students for when recreational cannabis becomes legal.
Following the completion of these programs, students will be “offered the opportunity to maintain and grow their own hemp for their hemp based business or agricultural goods.”
URC is one of five organizations that received grant funds from the Hawthorne Social Justice Fund within the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation. On June 10, 2021, the Hawthorne Gardening Company announced that it would be granting $2.5 million in funds to organizations whose efforts support criminal justice reform and social equity applicants. URC, as well as Last Prisoner Project, Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, Minorities for Medical Marijuana and NuLeaf Project received support from this fund.
Dowdy added that supporting those who have been wronged by the War on Drugs can only be a boon for the city of Youngstown, Ohio. “We already have a problem with workforce now but if we’re taking the next people that are coming and we’re training them and giving them an opportunity to have a job, to have a career to take care of their family, not only would it help them, it would help our city, it would help our community, it will help with the crime,” she said about her hope for the program’s success.