#WCW: Shaleen Title

Shaleen Title is co-founder of THC Staffing Group, a marijuana industry recruiting firm which places an emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and economic empowerment. As an attorney specializing in cannabis regulations, she has helped write and pass marijuana laws including Massachusetts Question 4. She has served on the board of national organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Lawyers Guild, and she currently serves as a founding board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marijuana Majority. Shaleen has won several awards for her advocacy work and her efforts to bring more women and people of color into drug policy reform, including the Hunter S. Thompson Young Attorney Award, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Outstanding Alumus Award, and the High Times Freedom Fighter Award. She has been quoted in publications including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Business Journal, NPR, Al Jazeera, and Denver Post and has written columns for Huffington Post, Ladybud, and The Influence.

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Who has been your most influential mentor?

My former mentees. My favorite thing in the world is when I see people I have mentored surpass me in their thoughtfulness and their level of innovation. During a recent event, I realized that almost every featured speaker was someone I had mentored. Each of them was teaching ideas I would have never thought of.

In fact, some of the most important professional decisions of my life have been made based on inspiration from young people who were looking to me for guidance.

Three people I had mentored were hanging out one day when they realized that I had helped each of them get their jobs. They wrote me to suggest I should start a recruiting company. That’s how the idea for THC Staffing Group came about.

How did you get where you are today?

I was in the right place at the right time. The medical marijuana movement as we know it began in California in the early 1990s when the San Francisco police raided the home of terminally ill AIDS patient, Jonathan West, and his partner/caretaker, Dennis Peron. Police found four ounces of cannabis in the home and charged Peron with the intent to distribute. When Peron was indicted for running a cannabis club that allowed people with AIDS and other diseases to gather to purchase and consume medical marijuana, he pleaded “morally not guilty” and eventually helped pass the first medical marijuana law in the United States.

When I graduated law school and joined the movement about 10 years later, it happened that I was right in the center when the gradual cultural and political shift reached the point where marijuana was legalized for the first time. I’ve tried to continue that work in the memory of all who have fought and died for it. I was honored to be asked to talk about medical cannabis at the United Nations last month, and Peron’s was the story I told. We have to fight for all the people who have been arrested and incarcerated for the last 40 years in the name of the “war on drugs.”

We have to fight for all the people who have been arrested and incarcerated for the last 40 years in the name of the “war on drugs.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

At age 29 I was described in a magazine as a mother to the legal marijuana movement. So in five years I’ll definitely be one of its grandmothers! I appreciate being seen as a thought leader, but I’m doing my best to pass the microphone to people with fresh ideas. My career so far has been a series of projects that no one had ever done before, and I want to challenge myself to keep that up.

Across the country, we are hearing that people of color are being shut out of the legal cannabis industry. While drafting the legalization law, my colleagues and I made Massachusetts the first state to address this exclusion by requiring in the law that when the regulations are written, there will also be policies focused on opening this new potentially billion dollar industry in Massachusetts to the very communities that have been targeted by the drug war. I intend to ensure that process happens successfully and help other states follow our example.

What about this city inspires you?

Boston is about questioning everything you’re told and fighting for what you believe in. I love Chicago, where I was born, but when I moved here it was palpable. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the place I had been looking for all my life.

Boston should be… more inclusive, integrative and welcoming.

Boston could be… the marijuana capital of the world.

Boston wants to be… the model for other cities who want to get it right.

Boston needs… to keep innovating and evolving without fear.