Kafui Togbenou, Medical Cannabis Diversity Intern
by Vireo Health

As a physician-founded, science-focused cannabis company, Vireo Health is committed to furthering the medical understanding and acceptance of cannabis as a safer, less addictive alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals.  

As part of that commitment, Vireo’s Medical Education Team creates research partnerships and educational programming, including clinical trials and studies with world-renowned organizations such as the NIH, Mayo Clinic, Park Nicollet, Montefiore Medical Center, Northwell Health, and MMJ.org. The Medical Education team also works with several universities to allow students pursuing a Doctorate in Pharmacy (PharmD) to do their rotations at Vireo dispensaries. 

Vireo is also deeply committed to promoting social justice, diversity, and inclusion in the cannabis industry and our local communities. Through the Vireo Health Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, we work to right the wrongs created by cannabis prohibition and the so-called War on Drugs, which disproportionately affects black and brown communities. 

Vireo partners with non-profits such as Last Prisoner Project, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, and others to host expungement clinics, letter-writing campaigns, and fundraising efforts. These programs help free those convicted of simple cannabis charges and clear the records of people with non-violent cannabis charges so they might find employment in the cannabis or other industries.

Last fall, we launched our Medical Cannabis & Diversity Internship program. You can read about our first intern in the program, Israa Mustafa by clicking here, or to review a summary of her white paper titled, Racialization and Criminalization of Cannabis Use in Black and non-white Latinx Communities and Pathways to Restorative Justice and Health Equity, just click here!

Last month, we hired our second Medical Cannabis & Diversity Intern, Kafui Togbenou! 

Kafui Togbenou was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. She is currently studying Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is on track to graduate in December 2021. Kafui loves clinical research and plans to work full-time in the healthcare field after she graduates.

We recently caught up with Kafui to hear more about her background, why she wanted to intern with Vireo, and her work as the Medical Cannabis Diversity Intern.

What made you interested in the Medical Cannabis Diversity Internship at Vireo?

I know that Cannabis research is still a relatively new field. However, the spread of both medical and adult-use programs across the United States has made it an essential and timely healthcare issue. I believe this internship is an excellent opportunity for me to be at the forefront of cannabis research while also making it accessible and equitable to all communities.

What do Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean to you?

These three words mean so much, especially during the current social climate. The focus for me is on fair representation. No races or socioeconomic groups should be excluded from the potential healthcare benefits of cannabis or otherwise. There should be systematic ways for resources and jobs to be made available to all people, despite any prior social, economic, or legal challenges they may have faced.

Why is making a difference significant to you?

Making a difference is important because I have witnessed firsthand how a lack of opportunities can hold many good people back in life. I want to have the chance to help others and provide additional benefits to someone’s life. Often, people need the right opportunity or a second chance, and they can change their life exponentially.

What are your favorite activities outside work/school?

I spend most of my leisure time working on my jewelry business or spending time with my family. My younger sister and I try to have at least one “Sister Night” a week!

Anyone you would like to “Shout-Out”?

I want to shout out my roommates at Georgia Tech for making my transition to fully remote learning during the pandemic a less stressful experience. They’ve encouraged me to keep working through difficult times and take mental health days when needed.

Thank you, Kafui, for speaking with us about these important topics. We look forward to seeing all the amazing things you accomplish at Vireo and beyond!

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