At the Co-LAB

We cultivate collaboration by working alongside communities to elevate champions of equity and support the work they have been doing over the years.

We advocate for the rights and participation of all, especially those historically affected by the war on drugs, aiming to rectify past injustices through actions like expungements and decriminalization.

The Ascend CO-LAB is committed to a shared future, marked by collective growth, healing, and prosperity.

“This initiative represents more than our commitment to social equity—it embodies our vision for a collaborative, thriving future where every individual has the opportunity to succeed.

Together, we’re planting the seeds for a more inclusive and just industry.

Danielle Drummond
Vice President, Ascend CO-LAB

Our Mission

To foster a stronger, more equitable cannabis industry by collaborating and addressing the social disparities from the war on drugs.

Our Vision

To create authentic relationships and seamless collaboration with the communities we serve. We do this through a focus on restorative justice, economic empowerment, and community reinvestment.

Our Programs

Restorative Justice

  • 23 expungement clinics/resources fairs conducted to date, across 5 states, and 1,200 community members served - more to come!
  • Expungement clinics are for ANY eligible offense, not just cannabis convictions, within the state that the clinic is being held in
  • Expungement and Community Events offer an array of other community-based services such as free meals, mental health services, veteran services, ID services, and a variety of other basic needs as provided by local community-based organizations and city departments
  • $2.3 million has been donated to the Last Prisoner Project over the last 5 years

Economic Empowerment

  • Providing job opportunities to formerly incarcerated individuals through local partnerships
  • Created a mentorship program that served 35 individuals in IL and NJ. Mentorship program consisted of 3 months of workshops, and the option of 1-1 mentorship
  • 24 Tours conducted of our cultivation and dispensary facilities for SE applicants
  • Technical assistance provided to SE licensees in all states
  • Supported 100 entrepreneurs through the Minority Cannabis Academy

Community Reinvestment

  • Over $350,000 donated to local grassroots organizations
  • In partnership with community organizations Conducted food drives, coat giveaways, feminine hygiene product giveaways, laptop giveaways for students, and provided meals for the elderly during Thanksgiving
  • Sponsored and conducted events educating the community on the cannabis industry as well as engaged with colleges and universities in educating their classes on career opportunities within the industry
Our Approach
We cultivate genuine relationships with diverse stakeholders, nurturing an environment of shared success.
We leverage our collective strength, influence, and expertise to ignite intentional waves of change.

social impact brands

(you can find on our shelves)

social impact brands

(you can find on our shelves)
Vic Mensa
Chicago, IL
93 Boyz
93 Boyz, Chicago's pioneering Black-owned cannabis brand, uniquely combines top-tier genetics with a community-focused mission. Founded by musician and activist Vic Mensa, the brand aims to uplift local neighborhoods while providing exceptional quality products. This vision, combined with their premium offerings, drives 93 Boyz's success today.
Ambrose Jackson
Founder & CEO
Chicago, IL
1937 Group
Ambrose Jackson is Chairman and CEO of The 1937 Group, a leading minority-owned cannabis operator based in Chicago, IL. As a voice for the social equity movement nationally, Ambrose has actively worked to create opportunities for increased participation and inclusion in the cannabis industry.
Akele Parnell
Founder & CEO
Chicago, IL
LAB 11
Akele Parnell is the CEO of ÜMI Farms, a Chicago-based craft cannabis brand with dispensaries, a cultivation facility, and Lab 11. He's on the boards of Chicago NORML and the Cannabis Equity Illinois Coalition, co-leading the cannabis industry's first community benefits agreement. Previously, he worked with Lantern and Green Thumb Industries.
Omar Anderson
Founder & CEO
Atlanta, GA
The Best Dirty Lemonade
As the CEO and Founder of The Best Dirty Lemonade, Omar Anderson is passionate about innovating the beverage industry with unique and refreshing drinks. His prior experience as a licensed Insurance Agent equipped him with the skills to navigate challenges and foster relationships. Today, he continues to build the brand while staying true to core values. He invites you to connect and explore the future of beverages!
Brendon Robinson
Stanley Okoro
New Jersey
Mudd Brothers
Mudd Brothers was founded by Brendon Robinson and Stanley Okoro, lifelong friends who became brothers; co-founders of 420NJEvents and the Minority Cannabis Academy. The NJ-based duo comes from a long background of serving the community and empowering entrepreneurs of color.
Matha Figaro
Founder & CEO
New Jersey
Matha Figaro is a Haitian American pastry and fine dining chef with a culinary degree from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. The inspiration for her business venture struck while she was vending traditional butter cakes and sauces at farmers markets in Jersey City. It all began when a customer approached her with a special request – he suggested incorporating cannabis into her products for medicinal purposes, as it could potentially provide relief to his mother undergoing chemotherapy.
Kwen Extracts
Kwen Extracts/Saphyre is a woman, minority, and veteran-owned company. It is our mission to provide high-quality medical marijuana products and white glove service that cater to the needs of our community beyond wellness. We are industry advocates aiming to create a culture of inclusivity, education, and empowerment for our patients.
Galaxy Labs
Galaxy Labs was founded by a husband-and-wife team, Rick and Michelle Ringold, with the goal to be the first Independent/Social Equity Craft Grower to go live in Illinois. Our owners are from Illinois and grew up in impacted areas and have overcome many challenges. Over 96% of Galaxy is owned by Minorities and Women (82.5% Black, 11% Hispanic, 33.25% Women). Galaxy Labs is committed to community and economic development and is actively engaged with several local community colleges including Olive-Harvey College, which has a cannabis studies proram. Galaxy Labs offers program and curriculum advisory support, donation of various supplies and equipment, and direct engagement through hands on learning sessions with the students
Organic Urban Revitalization Solution
Founded in May 2019, Organic Urban Revitalization Solutions (OURS) is a women-led enterprise consisting of dedicated professionals and cannabis connoisseurs, supported by a powerful collective network. We collaborate with a diverse network of BIPOC entities, including farmers, food entrepreneurs, small business owners, and community stakeholders.
Now available at an Ascend location near you while supplies last.
Community Events
Check this section frequently as we will update it with new events as they are scheduled.
Upcoming Events

April 20, 2024
Click here to register.

April 24, 2024 via ZOOM
Illinois Women in Cannabis
Click here to register.

Past Events
The following are some videos from our CO-LAB partner, Blaze Responsibly. The company is strategically paving its way to becoming a public resource center for the cannabis community at large.
Newark, NJ
Down Bottom Farms - Newark, NJ


"My name is Juan, the account manager for Smart Cannabis. I had an enjoyable and informative tour at Ascend Cultivation with our instructors, Matt and Clare, who explained each department, including soil, lighting, production, and plant care.

I also observed the staff trimming the plant and learned about the process. The entire tour was empowering and mentally healing, from seed to sale. Thanks to Ascend staff for this educational and amazing tour experience."
"My name is Jaynee', Director of Smart Cannabis. This visit to an Illinois cultivation facility was amazing. Claire's tour organization was excellent, and her guidance ensured a smooth experience. As an educator in the cannabis field, these opportunities, thanks to Claire, add value to Chicago's programs.

The insights gained here empowered us to enhance our educational efforts. Claire and Matt's detailed departmental introductions showcased day-to-day cultivation operations. I was particularly impressed with extraction methods and plant growth stages. Claire's goodie bag allowed me to explore and appreciate Ascend's products. Thank you!"
I highly recommend Ascend's mentorship program. It's an awesome experience with informative tours, engaging classes, and organizers who are super enthusiastic about answering questions. Take this great opportunity to expand your knowledge and gain valuable insights!.

Kurt Schilling, Blounts and Moore,