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October 20, 2020

Q&A: Athol’s Elev8 Cannabis dispensary to focus on equity and inclusion

Photo | Courtesy of Elev8 Cannabis Seun Adedeji, owner of Elev8 Cannabis in Athol

Elev8 Cannabis opened the first of its three Massachusetts dispensary locations in Athol on Oct. 8. Its owner and founder, Seun Adedeji, also operates a dispensary in Oregon, with another forthcoming in Illinois, according to the company’s website. Just a couple weeks into its opening, Adedeji spoke with WBJ about the company’s social equity priorities, as well as what he believes separates Elev8 from other Central Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries. 

Photo | Courtesy of Elev8 Cannabis
Elev8 Cannabis in Athol

Where does Elev8 currently do business, and what attracted you to bringing the company to Central Massachusetts? 

I have one dispensary in Worcester County, which is in the city of Athol. It is located at 243 Main St. I became interested in the city of Athol after visiting several times to consider opening in the area. After meeting local business owners and residents, I immediately sensed a welcoming and inclusive vibe. I thought my approach to business, which is to welcome customers and treat them with kindness and in a helpful manner, would match nicely with what Athol's residents currently experience when patronizing other businesses located along the Main Street corridor and around the area. More than anything, I wanted Elev8 to complement the other businesses and the city itself. 

What sets Elev8 apart from other cannabis companies operating in the state?

Elev8's approach is about helping our customers live their best lives, whether cannabis is a means to support their health or recreational needs, or both. Moreover, the cannabis products we sell are selected by growers we trust and know to have the quality to provide the enjoyment and relief customers are seeking. When people walk through our doors, we want them to know they've entered a space where they feel deeply cared for and valued.

Your website mentions your commitment to service, inclusion, and social equity. What does that look like in action? 

This is evident in the service Elev8's staff provides. When customers enter the dispensary, they're entering a space where we are never in a hurry to make a transaction. Instead, we will answer any and all questions with patience and in a way customers feel confident about the purchases they make. 

In terms of inclusion, we know we live in a state where a wide variety of people of racial identities, varying origins, status and class, preferences, live. My website simply conveys that people of all diversities are important to us and are always welcomed at Elev8.  

Lastly, regarding social equity, we know Black men and women in this country have been disproportionately punished by the War on Drugs policies. Many of these men were convicted of marijuana possession and imprisoned. Many men still are imprisoned. The impact of this has and continues to have devastating effects on them and their families, especially marginalized families and communities. 

Now social equity programs exist in states where cannabis is legal, and I endeavor to offer opportunities to the previously convicted who may be interested in the cannabis business to open dispensaries of their own and/or to train them on aspects of working for a cannabis business. A good example of this was a short-term program I participated in at Roxbury Community College recently, where I provided training about entering the cannabis industry. I will continue to participate in programs like these as well as offer employment opportunities in my dispensaries to qualifying men and women previously who've been impacted.

What are some lessons you've learned about running a business in the time of COVID?

One lesson I've learned is in order to increase the chances of keeping people safe and healthy, it is important to stay masked and adhere to social distancing protocols. At Elev8 we will always ask you to stay masked and stay distanced. 

Another lesson I've learned is how vital it is to provide a reliable delivery service and to keep the products people love the most in stock. Not everyone is comfortable shopping as they did prior to the pandemic, therefore we want to be the preferred online source of cannabis for those customers. 

If the business community should know one thing about Elev8, what is it?

It is that I am extremely proud Elev8 is now a key part of Athol's business community as well as a proud member of the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce. We're committed to serving you and offering you the best customer service, always. 

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Monica Busch.

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