- FRANCESCA FRANCO
A Cannabis Company Powered by Community
With over eight years of professional experience in the cannabis industry, Mindy Galloway co-founded Khemia, a social equity manufacturing company and licensed cannabis brand, in 2018 to give power back to the people.
“Given the shared nature of cannabis, it’s always been a movement,” Galloway said.
In June 1971, President Richard M. Nixon officially declared a “war on drugs,” which has disproportionately targeted and impacted Black and brown people and led to increased penalties, enforcement, and incarceration for individuals who manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal and strictly regulated at the federal level.
Despite the federal government’s position, over a dozen states and Washington, D.C., have reformed cannabis laws. In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana and permitted the state to tax and regulate cannabis production and sales regularly. However, Galloway says the cannabis market is in danger of capitulating to corporate interests. She hopes to disrupt the industry by lowering the starting costs for businesses run by historically disenfranchised communities.
By 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Cannabis Equity Act as a means of righting the wrongs of the war on drugs and fostering diversity within the cannabis industry by specifically providing loans and grants to communities harmed by cannabis prohibition. Funds are allocated to cities and counties that can choose if they wish to implement social equity programs in their jurisdictions. Funding is then distributed to program participants like Khemia. While Galloway considers the program a huge win for social equity in the cannabis industry, limitations remain.
“Cannabis has a very high barrier to entry. It costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get licenses,” Galloway said.
According to the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), fees are based on the cost it takes to regulate the industry and is scaled for larger businesses to pay more. The price for a “small indoor” production farm to apply for a cultivation license is $3,935, with the license costing $35,410. Anyone looking to enter the industry may also need to obtain licenses for manufacturing, distribution, testing laboratories, retail, microbusinesses, and cannabis-related events. These licensing fees are merely the tip of the iceberg of what it costs to start a cannabis brand.
Galloway says individuals who are considered low-income may qualify for assistance as they start their company but are also susceptible to predatory contracts. In response, Khemia upgraded its facility to be a shared manufacturing facility that operates similarly to a “shared kitchen.” Businesses obtain licensing under the umbrella of Khemia and use the company-shared manufacturing facilities, thus lowering their overhead costs.
Khemia also works with smaller farmers to ensure the quality of their products is never compromised. The company partners specifically with legacy farms, smaller-owned farms, and farms run by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ owners.
“We do our part in really working with our craft farmers because when you sing to your plants and you harvest during moonlight, there is something special about it,” Galloway said.
Consumers could change the cannabis industry by looking into the companies behind their favorite products and being more intentional about where their money goes, said Galloway.
Khemia aims to promote wellness and healing in a holistic and environmentally conscious way. Products include sugar-free cannabinoid wellness drinks, cultivated flowers, and rose petal pre-rolls.
Galloway’s journey with plant medicine influences the values the company has been built on. An artistically-inclined and passionate rebel, Galloway said she was acutely aware of the social inequities caused by the criminalization of cannabis. When she was younger, she used plant medicine to calm her anxiety and learned how to take care of the herb, trim it and make products like butter and salves from the other parts of the plant not to waste anything.
“Cannabis helped me get in tune with my spirituality, calm me down, and help with my own mental health and de-stress so I can see the world in a different perspective,” Galloway said.
Khemia is led by an all-women team, a feature that sets the company apart in an industry where executives are overwhelmingly white and male. Galloway met her co-founder Kimberly Cargile while working at a dispensary where Cargile hosted a cannabis industry incubator. Through this incubator, Galloway learned the business aspects of running a brand, adding to her years of experience with manufacturing, delivery, and managing.
Cargile herself owns a dispensary in Sacramento called A Therapeutic Alternative. In the years leading up to the legalization of cannabis, Galloway recalled how Cargile gave tours of her dispensary to government officials to help destigmatize the plant.
On her days off from overseeing the ins and outs of Khemia, Galloway turns to art as a meditative practice. Her art graces the walls of many local Sacramento businesses, and she plans to obtain a gallery space.
Born in Subic Bay in the Philippines, Galloway has come a long way and has great ambitions for the future. She hopes her story as a medicinal healer, muralist, and CEO with a non-traditional business education inspires others to follow their dreams and stay true to themselves.
In addition to running Khemia, Galloway is in the process of opening a dispensary in Sacramento called The Pocket Dispensary, coming soon in 2023.