With the mission of honoring Native American heritage and supporting indigenous people by responsibly growing, sourcing, producing, and providing the high quality CBD products in order to offer healthy lifestyle choices, and natural, alternative wellness solutions, Cannidigenous is truly a one of a kind purpose driven company. Founder and owner Rob Pero is the real deal, not like others in the cannabis industry who we’ve seen hop on the equity bandwagon just to look good in their marketing campaigns. Pero has a history of equity work and advocacy for indigenous people well before entering the cannabis industry.
Pero resides with his family in Wisconsin, one of the only states in America with no form of THC-touching cannabis legalization, making him even more of a pioneer with what he and Canndigenous are doing. He is a father of 4 and, after experience in the military, came out doing structural design in the corporate world until losing everything and then deciding to go back to school. He founded his design firm, Perodigm, in 2010, and quickly became a leading voice for the indigenous community. He immediately joined the American Indian chamber of commerce (where he is currently the president) and began doing work around travel communications as well as lots of advocacy work for Natives through his firm.
Pero became producer in 2019, after the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, and it was then when he founded Canndigenous. He scaled up a 10 acre hemp grow in 2020 and also purchased a dispensary that was going out of business and that eventually became Ripley Green.
Canndigenous, which grows organic hemp on its Wisconsin farm and sells consumer wellness products at its Ripley Green retail apothecary location in Cambridge, Wis., expanded its innovative health and wellness product lineup in 2022 with a continued commitment to transparent and sustainable practices. Last year, the company released a subscription box option, celebrated a successful harvest season, and launched two new varieties of organically grown hemp strains.
Fast forward to today, Pero founded the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association just last year (in 2022), an organization that pushes for the advancement of the cannabis industry for the benefit of all Indigenous communities, and works on national, state, regions, and tribal level cannabis education and advocacy. In fact, Pero and his colleagues just held the first ever summit that is specific to cannabis and how it relates to the indigenous community, both in terms of medicine and science as well as the potential for reparations to be made to these communities.
“The ICIA is highly focused on developing equitable state and federal policy reform strategies. We recognize the unprecedented economic opportunity of the hemp and cannabis industries for both the public sector and for Indigenous communities,” says Rob Pero, who is the founder of ICIA, owner of the first independent Native-owned hemp company in Wisconsin Canndigenous, and member of the Bad River Tribe. “Indigenous people and Tribal Nations have deep historical roots in the agricultural development of medicinal plants and have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition of cannabis in the United States. Now is a unique chance to pursue cannabis policy reform and ensure Tribal sovereignty.”
Native-owned Hemp Company Canndigenous
Led by cannabis entrepreneur Rob Pero, Canndigenous is positioning hemp to be an economic driver for Indigenous communities. Canndigenous, the first independent, Native American-owned hemp company in Wisconsin, celebrates a year of growth in 2022 as a leader in the Wisconsin hemp marketplace. With a joint focus on both product and market development last year, the company partnered with leading cannabis organizations to help position hemp as a pillar of the national cannabis industry and as an economic driver for Indigenous communities.
In September 2022, the company and several partners were awarded $15 million from the “Industrial Hemp for Fiber and Grain” project by the USDA’s Climate-Smart Commodities program. The project, led by Iconoclast Industries, will be used to support the expansion of climate-smart markets by providing open-access data and training on how to monetize climate-smart practices through a digital marketplace pilot. Canndigenous is the only tribal-member owned partner funded under the USDA’s Climate-Smart Commodities program to date.
“We’re strategically aligning with cannabis and hemp leaders so we can work together to advance the impact of the cannabis and hemp markets on our country’s health, sustainability, and economic development,” says Canndigenous Founder Rob Pero. Pero, a member of Bad River Tribe, is the founder of the national cannabis advocacy group ICIA, owns Wisconsin-based marketing and consulting firm Perodigm, and is a co-founder of the Indigenous Business Group. “There is untapped potential for hemp to be an economic force for tribal nations and Indigenous entrepreneurs, and we are excited to share what we’ve learned with the industry as a blueprint for future success.”
Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association’s “Wisconsin Cannabis Industry and Policy Summit”
The first Wisconsin Cannabis Industry and Policy Summit, hosted by the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association (ICIA), took place just a couple months ago (February of 2023) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and brought together Tribal leaders, elected and government officials, business, healthcare, veterans groups, and advocacy organizations for networking and to to uplift cannabis economic development throughout the state. The first-of-its-kind summit was held as Wisconsin is expected to debate marijuana legalization during the 2023-2024 Legislative Session. Governor Tony Evers (D) has pledged to introduce recreational marijuana, and Republican leaders of the legislature have publicly shared their interest in introducing legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Despite marijuana not being legal in Wisconsin, the state is not completely without cannabis products. Wisconsin legalized CBD in 2017, which also allows for the sale of Delta-8 products.
“The Wisconsin Cannabis Summit was a unique opportunity for hemp and cannabis industry leaders to come together and address the most pressing issues facing cannabis policy reform in Wisconsin,” says Rob Pero, who is the founder of ICIA and owner of Wisconsin-based hemp company Canndigenous. “The ICIA is highly focused on developing strategies for economic opportunity in the state for both the public sector and for Indigenous communities to ensure Tribal sovereignty,” .
The Summit explored economic development opportunities for cannabis in Wisconsin, and featured a lineup of panelists and cannabis experts, who spent the conference discussing solutions to the most pressing cannabis-related challenges and opportunities facing Indigenous communities. Keynote speakers for the summit included Dr. Rodney Haring, Director of the Roswell Park Center for Indigenous Cancer Research; Winona LaDuke, author of “A Just Transition: Hemp & The New Green Revolution”; and Chris James, President of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development.
ICIA has also worked in Wisconsin to advocate to Congress for a federally legal regulatory path for Tribes in cannabis, successfully advocated for non-interference for compliant tribal cannabis in the 2023 appropriations bill, and led successful multi-state campaigns to raise awareness about tribal sovereignty in cannabis and protecting Indigenous rights in social equity language.
The ICIA’s next steps in Wisconsin include:
- Advocate for the federal rescheduling of cannabis and removing marijuana as a schedule 1 drug,
- Protect and promote Tribal sovereignty protections in cannabis,
- Help ensure Tribal hemp and cannabis farmers have access to banking and merchant services,
- Work with FDA to protect tribal provisions in cannabis policies after federal reform,
- Advance Indigenous communities in the larger landscape of social equity and racial justice reform in cannabis
About the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association
The Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association exists to promote the exploration, development, and advancement of the cannabis industry for the benefit of all Indigenous communities. ICIA is dedicated to the advocacy and empowerment of our Indigenous cannabis businesses, influencers, and aspiring entrepreneurs along with being a conduit of connection and data for Indigenous Nations as we push towards a vision of an equitable, just, and sustainable Indigenous cannabis economy.
As the first Native American owned hemp farm and CBD retailer in Wisconsin, Canndigenous focuses on growing local, high-quality CBD and providing wellness products with a commitment to natural, organic, and sustainable practices. All of Canndigenous’ hemp plants are rooted around tenets of love for family, support for community, respect for the natural world, and a commitment to doing everything, as the Ojibwe say, “in a good way.” Canndigenous’ full lineup of CBD products, including hemp flower, pre-rolls and tinctures, are currently available online nationwide and at Ripley Green’s retail location at 226 W. Main Street in historic Cambridge, Wisconsin.