Darel Dawson, affectionately known as Grindstone, is president of the i-71 Committee. His primary goals for this committee include social equity, restorative justice, and establishing low-barriers to access. Darel is from Oakland originally, but has lived in the DMV since the early 90s, when he graduated Hampton University with a biology degree. Soon after, Darel moved to Washington D.C. to do psychopharmacological research at the National Institutes of Health and at Johns Hopkins University. It was here that he was introduced to the medical benefits of cannabis, after working on clinical studies that researched the effects of drugs on behavior. It was through this research that Darel became keenly aware of the impact that cannabis prohibition had on Black and Brown communities.
Darel is owner of the fashion brand Grindstone Universal, a brand that has opened doors and been a leading cultural voice in the District’s creative community. By allowing creative self-expression and creating a platform for those who’ve been marginalized, Grindstone has helped to provide artistic opportunities for members of his community. In 2019, Darel opened Peace in the Air, a platform for local artists to sell their music and be represented. This company has supplied many job opportunities for local DC artists who want to combine their artistic platform with their love of cannabis. Peace in the Air has become a staple in the Adams Morgan community, allowing for those who were previously unable to access the cannabis industry to participate.
Going forward, Darel is eager to help members of the I-71 Committee make a smooth transition from the legacy cannabis market into a regulated recreational program. His hope as president is that the committee will be able to work with local brands to make sure the voices of legacy operators are included. He believes that their inclusion will be a fundamental component to achieving true social equity in DC’s cannabis industry.