Biggie’s Own C.J. Wallace And Willie Mack Fight To Legalize Cannabis, Celebrate Black Culture...
And Creativity With New Lifestyle Brand
More than a year ago, I heard C.J. Wallace, son of Christopher “The Notorious BIG” Wallace, was getting into the cannabis industry. People told me his organization, Think BIG, was cool as hell. But after looking into it, I could not (for the life of me) figure out what it did. I think C.J. and his partner, creative genius Willie Mack, seemed to be still in the formative stages.
At the time, they had launched a limited edition line of cannabis with one of the leading companies in the space. However – they told me at the time, they knew Think BIG had to be about much more than just selling good weed. It needed to be about doing good.
Over a year has gone by, and C.J. and Willie’s lives have changed. “A year ago, I didn’t really see what we’re doing now,” C.J. acknowledged during a recent conversation. “I understood the importance of reinvestment into all of the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs and an unfair criminal justice system. I knew the social equity piece and criminal justice reform aspect were going to be huge, key parts of our business. However, at the time, I think I really wanted to have a cannabis product out.”
As time went by, C.J. became increasingly aware of his privileged position as a black, cannabis entrepreneur with connections, a legacy, a name and a team. How many others could claim this? And so, he reckoned: this force had to be used for a greater good. “This past year has been a great learning experience... You have to evolve,” he explained. And evolved they have. Think BIG is not just a cannabis company. In reality, Think BIG is a company focused on legalization and criminal/social justice reform.
“Our True North as people and business is global legalization of cannabis and hemp, because legalization forces hard conversations about the roots and enforcement of prohibition and numerous discussions on how to help the people most harmed by prohibition,” said Mack.
Right before COVID-19 shut down New York, Think BIG spent a week traveling across the state to meeting with representatives from Governor Cuomo’s office; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; the Harlem Business Alliance; and other elected, religious and community leaders. Everyone was committed to cannabis reform and gave C.J., Willie and their coalition of legalization and advocacy partners Jason Ortiz, President of the Minority Business Cannabis Association and cannabis executive and Super Bowl champion Marvin Washington an opportunity to discuss their legalization policy platform.
“It was my first time visiting the State Capital and lobbying for anything, especially cannabis legalization. I was nervous but also very surprised by the reception we got, so many people supporting us and asking for advice. When we were thanked with a standing ovation on the floor of the NY State Assembly for continuing my dad’s legacy and fighting for legalization, that was really overwhelming for both of us.” C.J. said.
Mack added: “It was pretty incredible, everyone from Cuomo’s office and his cannabis Czar, to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, were open to listening to our policy platform. Our advisors Steve DeAngelo from the Last Prisoner Project and Steven Hawkins, from Marijuana Policy Project have been invaluable in helping us understand the issues around criminal justice reform; what social justice and social equity should look like.
“We have to free cannabis POW’s, stop the over policing of black and brown communities and lay the groundwork for reinvestment into those communities that were the most harmed by the war on cannabis with grants, advisors, education, job training, economic reinvestment and criminal social justice reforms across the country as we build this new industry.”
For C.J., going to Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens, as well as sitting with the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucuses, was an eye-opener.
“Listening to what the people in these communities are concerned about and sharing ideas on how to fix the unfair criminal justice system and rebuild communities was something I never could have imagined, I know my dad would be blown away,“ C.J. stated.
And, as adult-use and medical cannabis dispensaries around the country have been deemed essential, during this COVID-19 pandemic, Think BIG’s message of creativity has become more relevant than ever.