Burners Block: Building a compassionate cannabis community in the DMV


Welcome to The Outlaw Report’s new Q&A series, focused on the cannabis landscape of the Mid-Atlantic. Our series aims to shine a spotlight on the trailblazers and experts who are shaping the local cannabis industry. Through their first-hand experience and insights, we explore the successes, challenges, and stories of businesses and individuals at the forefront of cannabis policy, business and innovation in the region.

Our fourth interview features Burners Block, a organization focused on uniting Maryland’s Canna Community through advocacy, education and grassroots initiatives.

Shawn Williams is the founder and CEO of Burners Block established in 2019. The organization recently partnered with Grow West to host a book drive. Williams is also a graduate of the University of Maryland’s cannabis program. Read the full interview below!

What is Burners Block and what do you do? 

When I’m asked about Burners Block, I often find it hard to pin down a single definition because it encompasses so much. It’s more than just an organization; it’s a commitment to prioritizing community over profit, a rarity in similar groups. We actively work towards the changes we wish to see, both in the wider world and specifically within the cannabis industry, through education, advocacy, and community projects. Unlike simply donating for tax benefits, we strive to genuinely connect cannabis businesses with the communities they serve. I like to think of us as being right there in the thick of it, working shoulder to shoulder with those we aim to support.   

What is your favorite part of working in the DMV cannabis market?

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite aspect. The cannabis market operates on profit motives just like any other market. I can only speak for what I’ve observed in the Maryland market and a small part of the DC market; I can’t speak for the broader DMV area. It won’t become a favorite for me until the industry leaders truly embody the social responsibility they so often tout in their marketing rhetoric.

What are you most excited to contribute to the cannabis market in the DMV? 

I’m deeply involved in community efforts, and that’s what truly matters to me. While I can’t speak for the entire DMV area, I can certainly share my experiences in Maryland. To answer your question, what excites me most is showcasing to the world that the cannabis community is compassionate and caring. We care about our schools, our local nursing homes, the homeless population, animal shelters, and much more. I’m passionate about dispelling the stigma that unfairly labels us as mere “drug-loving hippies.” We don’t need to promote consumption to make meaningful contributions to our communities.

What is the backbone or ethos of Burners Block as a company? 

At Burners Block, our ethos revolves around advancing the cannabis industry through several key initiatives: advocating for those unjustly affected by non-violent, victimless crimes; promoting opportunities for Black individuals to secure positions and ownership in corporate cannabis ventures; driving community progress through education; and a host of other endeavors. It’s challenging to encapsulate what Burners Block is in a single explanation because we encompass such a wide array of values and actions. However, our character speaks volumes about our commitment to these causes.

What makes Burners Block unique as an organization?  

What sets Burners Block apart is our multi-faceted approach to addressing various issues, not confining ourselves to just one industry or global problem. While some organizations may focus solely on advocacy or protests, we’re different. We’re on the ground, actively engaged in expungement clinics, ensuring schools have necessary resources, speaking at youth conferences about navigating the legal market and resisting peer pressure, assisting with reintegration programs for inmates, and providing support to the elderly. Finding another organization identical to Burners Block is a challenge because our diverse initiatives and hands-on approach make us unique.

How can cannabis businesses benefit from working with you? 

If cannabis companies genuinely care about the communities they serve, they’ll collaborate with us. We’re not just a means for them to get a tax write-off. We assist companies in understanding their community and discerning its needs.

Can you share a story where you were able to have a real impact?

I have a variety of stories to share, each demonstrating the impact we make. We donated over 500 prerolls and care packages to the DC homeless community. We have also contributed 300+ books to schools in Baltimore and PG Count.  We also work in expungement. One gentleman whose record we helped expunge now works as a buyer for a major cannabis company in Maryland, not just in a basic role like budtending or packaging. Everything we do creates an impact. Burners Block is my mission, and impact is what I breathe.

Williams gives away prerolls and food to community members.

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