Black-led Community Spotlight: Jimil Wilson of Maitri Medicinals | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Black-led Community Spotlight: Jimil Wilson of Maitri Medicinals

click to enlarge Jimil Wilson, Chief Financial Officer of Maitri Medicinals - PHOTO: MATT DAYAK, COURTESY OF MAITRI MEDICINALS
Photo: Matt Dayak, Courtesy of Maitri Medicinals
Jimil Wilson, Chief Financial Officer of Maitri Medicinals
Being a Black person at the helm of a marijuana-based business is important to Jimil Wilson. It’s “critical to the health of the industry,” as he describes it. He explains data shows that, while Black and white people consume cannabis at just about the same rate, Black communities are policed at a higher rate and are disproportionately represented in marijuana-related arrests. People with marijuana convictions, under Pennsylvania state regulations, can’t work in the industry.

Wilson is the Chief Financial Officer of Maitri Medicinals, one of four medical marijuana dispensaries that qualified patients can shop from in the city of Pittsburgh, with a location in East Liberty and one in Uniontown, in Fayette County.

“One of the things that we really are looking to do is we've had many or several candidates come through that we wanted to hire that were diverse, that we couldn't because they had a record around cannabis or drugs,” Wilson says. “So one of the things that we're looking to do is to really work with these candidates who've come to us, but with others as well, to really help them navigate the justice system to get their records expunged.”

These efforts are only a part of Maitri’s vision, but getting records expunged is a big help for people in the communities they serve. As an executive at Maitri, Wilson believes that a diverse staff, whether that’s in regard to race, gender, or thought, is a big move toward serving their communities better.

Maitri touts itself as a collection of “third generation Southwestern Pennsylvania residents who are deeply invested in the region's well-being and development.” Maitri has a firm focus on wellness, and provides their patients with a wide variety of products.

Wilson was in banking before he left in 2015 and began to pursue a career in cannabis. He met Maitri founders Corinne Ogrodnik and Joe Vesely later in 2016 at one of their investment pitches. At the time, Wilson had been working as a consultant for small businesses looking to grow and providing them with financial resources. Wilson says Ogrodnik and Vesely had been working on their pitch long before the commonwealth legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2016, and before it became available for purchase through dispensaries in 2018. The founders asked Wilson to join as part of their application process, and when they got their permit, he was asked to stay on full-time.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, the executives say generating wealth in the community is an important part of Maitri’s vision. Of their 100 investors, about 99% are based in Western Pa. Wilson says their Uniontown location was next to a coffee shop that ended up extending its hours to keep up with increased customer demand because patients who frequented Maitri would often visit before or after their appointments. There was also a summer basketball league in the city, and Maitri was able to sponsor the adult team. Being integrated into the communities they serve is a part of their business model.

With hundreds of patients being served daily, Wilson says Maitri is seeing the fruits of its labor.

“We try to be really responsible corporate citizens,” Wilson says. Maitri’s efforts to be “responsible corporate citizens” also extends toward their East Liberty location.

“A great thing that we do here in Pittsburgh is we work with Bidwell Training Center, and we’ve been able to hire a number of their horticulture graduates to work at our grower facility, which is a half hour outside of Downtown,” Wilson says.

In addition to helping the community, he also stresses the dispensary’s responsibilities for its patients, which includes dispelling some myths and misconceptions some people might still have about the marijuana industry.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is, or has been, that most of our patients that we see, I'd say probably 80% have been consuming cannabis through the legacy market to help them treat or alleviate symptoms of health conditions they've had for long periods or maybe even the majority of their life,” Wilson says.

In the marijuana business, the “legacy market” refers to the pre-legalization ways that people used to get marijuana. Wilson mentions one patient who was consuming a large amount of their products.

“We had some questions as to whether it’s possible for her to be consuming that much cannabis just herself,” he says. It turned out that the patient had a severe case of endometriosis, a painful disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus begins to grow on the outside.

Wilson explains that the idea of people only just now using marijuana to treat physical or emotional disorders isn’t true, adding that cannabis has been used as a treatment for pain for a long time. “Life is challenging and people consume cannabis to help them get through the challenges they face in life,” he says. “As a company, we want to be there for them at the dispensary level, providing them with great selection and service to help them through their journey.”

He also negates the idea that it’s too easy to get a medical marijuana card, saying the idea that people are taking advantage of the process is a myth that comes from old attitudes perpetuated by the war on drugs. Maitri’s pharmacists have been working hard in the community to reverse some of this harmful thinking, he says, by showing that cannabis has a long list of benefits.

Maitri Medicinals. 5845 Centre Ave., East Liberty. Follow them @maitrimeds on Instagram and Twitter.

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