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40 Under 40: Nadir Pearson

In The Magazine

40 Under 40: Nadir Pearson

The founder of SMART is on a mission to build an ecosystem of equity-minded industry leaders.

You could say that Nadir Pearson represents the future of cannabis. This multi-dimensional millennial has taken the cannabis industry by storm with his passion for advocacy, content creation and business propensity.

An Ivy League alum, Pearson is best known for ushering in a new era of understanding about cannabis and empowering the next generation of leaders to leave their mark on the legalization movement.

Pearson discovered the disingenuous stigma that linked cannabis with minority communities at an early age. The results from his first experience smoking weed when he was much younger were in direct conflict with the scaremongering stories D.A.R.E. had told him about the plant. This newfound knowledge sparked Pearson’s interest, and he was determined to learn more.

Pearson was inspired to dig deeper, and his journey led him to discover the plant’s racist history as well
as its medical benefits. The information proved to be a driving force in his future, and he was determined to make cannabis opportunities equitable for brown and Black communities. Pearson saw the need for a transparent and safe space where college students could learn the whole truth about cannabis.

In 2017, while a student at Brown University, Pearson founded SMART (Student Marijuana Alliance for Research & Transparency), a student-led network dedicated to learning openly and honestly about cannabis and its impactful role in our society. By promoting knowledge, research and professional growth, SMART aims to encourage the next generation to see past the stigma associated with marijuana.

Additionally, SMART supports an open approach to learning about cannabis that balances the industry’s positive and negative aspects. The deliberate inclusion of the word “marijuana” in the organization’s title serves as a reminder of the Reefer Madness propaganda employed by media and politicians to racially vilify cannabis while simultaneously negatively stereotyping brown and Black communities.

A New Jersey native, Pearson currently serves as Deputy Director for NJ NORML and is the East Coast Project Lead for Cannaclusive.

“I’m rooting for the passionate, savvy operators and brands that play the long game in cannabis. The ones that stay true to their core values and to the plant,” Pearson said. “Mergers and acquisitions will come, but there’s still an opportunity to build an ecosystem of equity-minded industry leaders.”

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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