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Activist Sarai Graves seeking to reshape Chicago’s cannabis industry

Sarai Graves (Photo provided)

Sarai A. Graves, CEO and co-founder of Eye of Da Chi Networks, is a project manager with over 10 years of experience in marketing, logistics, organizing, and event planning. She has worked on several youth initiatives throughout Illinois to close the digital divide and increase financial literacy for urban youth.

Since 2007 Graves has assisted in fostering private-public partnerships for community organizations to create jobs and vocational opportunities for the unemployed. As a human rights activist, community organizer, and teacher, Graves has committed herself to causes involving education, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Her interest in cannabis legalization began in her teens, after being arrested for possession with intent to sell. Graves talked to rolling out about her determination to help reshape and develop Illinois for emerging industries.

Why is it important for African Americans to get into the cannabis industry?
African Americans have experienced the worst sentencing and policing with regards to cannabis, and now that it is legal, African Americans should want to benefit as [a form of] retribution.

Which aspects of marijuana entrepreneurship are most critical for African Americans?
Filling spaces within the industry that aren’t typical entrant focuses, in the areas of research, training, manufacturing, or service-based [are most critical]. The lifespan of service organizations is generally longer, so finding ways to utilize skills, like tax preparation within the cannabis industry is ideal.

What are African Americans missing out on if they do not engage themselves in the cannabis industry?
The next frontier in industrial disruption, as well as emerging markets. This industry is based on a commodity and consumer-based products, so it can be [likened] to the “Gold Rush” and the dotcom boom, which is why it’s often referred to as the “Green Rush.”

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