Article by Growth Op
Shane D’Costa wears many hats. From starting his career at one of Ontario’s first few legal stores to actively raising awareness for social justice issues, D’Costa is currently working at Etobicoke located cannabis retail chain, Spiritleaf. When he’s not busy with his day job, he freelances as a portrait photographer and is actively involved in giving back to the cannabis community.
“As a person who works in an industry built upon the backs of Black, Indigenous and people of colour, I was compelled to give back to these communities,” says D’Costa, who launched ‘Minorities for Change in Canadian Cannabis’ initiative in June last year. But despite being actively involved in the industry, he still receives flak for smoking weed at home. “I am a biracial gay man. My mom is Filipino and my dad is Indian, so my parents should not have been surprised that I would be smoking weed at some point,” he notes jokingly in an email. Here, D’Costa describes how his career in the legal industry began, the non-negotiable part of the job and how, despite cultural stereotypes, his parents don’t have a problem with him working in the cannabis industry.
How it all began
My journey in the cannabis industry started during the Wild West days of 2016 when dispensaries proliferated the Toronto landscape. It was the summer following my graduation from post-secondary education when I took a dip in the cannabis industry. I was hired at a grey market dispensary for several months but made a promise to myself that I would come back to cannabis once it was legalized.
The opportunity came knocking two years later. Unfortunately, it took some time to become a budtender as Ontario only had five legal dispensaries operating and positions were limited. During that time period, I was working as a brand ambassador for various companies, freelanced as a portrait photographer (still do!), and modelled/acted for commercials. Yet with all the jobs I was juggling, I still wanted to work in cannabis. That was when I decided to take my first step towards the legal market by applying to Nova Cannabis in Downtown Toronto and was hired as a budtender.
From that point on, I went on to speak on the CanMar Recruitment Global Expo’s panel “The Budtenders’ Perspective” and launched an initiative called “Minorities for Change in Canadian Cannabis” where I raised $1000 to donate to social justice organizations such as Black Lives Matter, Raven Trust and Cannabis Amnesty.
Cannabis at home
I am a biracial gay man. My mom is Filipino and my dad is Indian, so, my parents should not have been surprised that I would be smoking weed at some point.
All jokes aside, my parents do not seem to have a problem with the job or industry itself, but the actual health implications of consuming cannabis (namely smoking it). It is a strange paradox to experience, but something so wholly native to being an immigrant, as I have given my mom 1:1 oil and purchased a couple of non-alcoholic cannabis-infused beers for my dad to help them relax. They were incredibly receptive to the products and liked them, yet I still get flak for smoking weed!
Giving back during the pandemic
In June 2020, a few months after the first lockdown, the world was feeling a shift I believed was a long time coming. As a person who works in an industry built upon the backs of Black, Indigenous & people of colour, I was compelled to give back to these communities.
At that time, I realized I had created a valuable network by pursuing portrait photography, brand ambassador work, commercial modelling/acting and cannabis as a career. That is how the social justice initiative “Minorities for Change in Canadian Cannabis” emerged. The initiative would end up raising $1000 through personal outreach to my network and connecting with anybody who resonated with the initiative’s cause of helping give back.
On that same note, I am planning to start another outreach program this winter, mainly aimed at helping homeless people and shelters survive Canada’s harsh weather.