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Undoubtedly, the landscape for the cannabis industry has transformed over the last decade.
Ten years ago, most people had no clue about strains, cannabinoids, or terpenes, let alone had aspirations of becoming a legitimate cannabis entrepreneur. In 2010, for the first time, marijuana legalization became a mainstream political issue as the California ballot initiative, Proposition 19, pulled off a near-victory. However, it would be two more years before Colorado and Washington would become the first U.S. states, and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world, to legally regulate adult-use marijuana.
Today, the cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing global industries. According to New Frontier Data, in 2019, the U.S. cannabis industry generated nearly $14 billion in sales revenue, $1.4 billion in federal tax revenue and $11 billion in investment capital raised.
Of the wealth generated by cannabis last year, there was little available to Black and LatinX entrepreneurs due to the limited number of owners operating in the space. Additionally, although the first adult-use legalization is nearly 8 years old, it is only recently that states have started to focus more closely on restorative measures and use of cannabis tax revenue to address the inequities created and sustained during multiple decades of marijuana prohibition. In fact, for many early legalization laws passed, people with prior “criminal” history involving cannabis were automatically disqualified or prohibited from participation in the legal market.
Despite consistently similar consumption habits across all races, data shows Black and Brown men are far more likely to have prior arrests and convictions for cannabis possession than white counterparts. Given this history of racially-biased prohibition, the relative void of diversity across the industry is not surprising. However, based on my experience as a cannabis business strategist and market analyst, it has negatively impacted the performance of the legal market as compared to estimations of the legacy, unlicensed market.
In response to the need for diversity awareness, earlier this year, The WeedHead™ & Company released a widely circulated list of 65 Black and Hispanic men in cannabis to watch in 2020. Nearly halfway through the year, we have narrowed the list to focus on five critical areas of influence and rapid change in the last 5 years of cannabis legalization: Health, Equity, Advocacy, Business, and Media.
The twenty men featured are all successful green entrepreneurs despite limited investment capital available for people of color. Simultaneously, they are also much-needed educators, advocates, and change agents pushing the industry towards a more inclusive $30 billion by 2025. More importantly, this list shines a spotlight on men of color overcoming the history of shame and continued law enforcement harassment to be successful pioneers in the legal cannabis industry.
View our slideshow to see 20 outstanding Black and Latinx men in the cannabis space.
This article was written by Dasheeda Dawson with contributions from David Kellman.
First Therapeutic Use Exemption for Cannabis
Mike James is a former NFL player-turned-cannabis advocate. James made sports history as the first player to file for a therapeutic use exemption for cannabis in the NFL. While the organization denied the request, James has grown into an advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis for pain over opioids or other harmful pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Rasean Hodge
Premier Chronic Pain Care
Dr. Rasean Hodge is a Family Physician and Medical Director at the Premier Chronic Pain Care based in Georgia. The practice specializes in helping patients find out about and obtain medical cannabis cards. Since the pandemic, they have moved to telemedicine to pivot in these times.
Stanley Atkins is a U.S. Navy Veteran as well as a retired paramedic who founded The CanniMedic. Atkins worked to expand Georgia's medical cannabis program (HB65), the Atlanta Decriminalization Ordinance as we all the Decriminalization of South Fulton. The company is a member of Peachtree NORML, Georgia DHBDD and the GA Chapter President For M4MM.
Good Tree Technology
Rashaan Everett is the founder and CEO of Good Tree Technology, an innovative, vertically-integrated cannabis brand that also includes a digital cannabis delivery service. Catering to the California marketplace, Everett's brand is a partner with an incubator called Growing Talent.
Jesce Horton is the trailblazing co-Founder of NuLeaf Project. Horton through his work with NuLeaf Project aims to offer capital, education, and a bridge of connection for people of color to enter the cannabis space.
Kevin Ford Jr.
Kevin Ford Jr. is the Founder and CEO of Uplift Maryland. The company offers training for people who want to be a part of Maryland's cannabis industry, either as medical patients or as storeowners and licensees. Uplift is a "one-stop-shop" for medical cannabis that helps people coming from historically disenfranchised communities enter the space.
Karim Webb is the CEO of 4thMVMT. The work of 4thMVMT empowers social equity in the cannabis industry by offering education, training, vetting, and even investment financing to individuals from communities who have been heavily impacted by the War on Drugs. Webb's work sets up entrepreneurs for success in the cannabis space who may not otherwise be able to enter.
Minority Cannabis Business Association
Jason Ortiz is the Board President at the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Since 2015, MCBA has earned the title of the first 501(c)(6) not-for-profit league of businesses created for minority cannabis entrepreneurs, workers, medical patients, and adult-use consumers. Its members span the country today.
Minorities for Medical Marijuana
Leo Bridgewater is the National Director of Veteran Outreach at Minorities for Medical Marijuana. M4MM is a powerful nonprofit organization that gives cannabis advocacy, education, formal training, and outreach to underserved communities. It is well-known for its series of Cannabis Business Licensing Bootcamp programs.
Marcus Harcus is the Executive Director of Minnesota NORML. Harcus shows bravery reaching across the aisle to debate with and change the hearts and minds of people in opposition to cannabis legalization. Harcus is from north Minneapolis. The former City Council candidate-turned-cannabis activist began his work with NORML with one part of his mission to make a legal industry in his home state one day that offers equity for the disproportionately affect Black and POC communities.
Cannabis Cultural Association
Jake Plowden is the Co-Founder of Cannabis Cultural Association. Based in New York, the Cannabis Cultural Association is a unique 501c3 nonprofit organization that gives people in disenfranchised communities actionable resources to get into legal cannabis and hemp industries. Plowden hails from Brooklyn and Harlem, and says he has witnessed, "the destructive components of the Drug War and its socioeconomic effects on African American/Latinx communities."
New Frontier Data
John Kagia is the Chief Knowledge Officer at New Frontier Data. New Frontier Data is one of the leading statistics and analytical data companies looking at the cannabis industry, both medical and adult-use, across the country. Mining data and information from the industry is important, as the federal government is not keeping track of total sales within the industry.
Seun Adedeji is the Founder at Elev8Cannabis. Adedeji runs a series of cannabis dispensary storefronts that have grown to an interstate brand, with Elev8 Cannabis locations in Massachusetts, Oregon, and soon-to-be Illinois. Adedeji is an immigrant who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, to become the cannabis industry founder success story that he is today.
Roger Obando is the Co-Founder of Baker Technologies, an ingenuitive cannabis tech company founded in 2014 that is one of the leading CRM platforms for the industry today. Obando is also the author of The Highest Common Denominator.
Cory Holmes is the Founder and CEO of Holmes Organics, a popular CBD company that he developed after a lifetime of experiencing anxiety, stress, and PTSD. He decided he needed a plant-based medical alternative to anxiety as well as to aid in pain relief from several concussions from playing college football. Holmes advocates for other people of color to enter the CBD industry; he is also the Creator of the CBD Start-up Academy.
Javier Hasse, Managing Editor of the popular cannabis publication Benzinga as well as the new Spanish speaking publication El Planteo. Hasse is also the author of Start Your Own Cannabis Business, an Entrepreneur book.
Mehka King is the Creator and Host of the Cashcolorcannabis Podcast. King speaks to all topics in the cannabis world, from politics to sports, medicine, research, and interviewing some of the most prominent names in the industry.
Tauhid Chappell is an Executive Board Member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ). Chappell is the creator of the CannAtlantic Conference, the first-of-its-kind for this region.
Student Marijuana Alliance for Research & Transparency (SMART)