10 Black Weedpreneurs Killing It At The Legal Marijuana Game

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Written by Ann Brown
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Photo: Unsplash

These days marijuana is big business — big legal business. In fact, retail marijuana sales in the United States were expected to soar to $10 billion in 2018, according to a report from Marijuana Business Daily. That’s a 50 percent boost from 2017. And, by 2022 sales are expected to reach $22 billion annually.

Thirty states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use and it can be sold for recreational consumption in nine as well as the District of Columbia.

The legalization of marijuana has promoted many African-American entrepreneurs to enter the field. However, while “marijuana legalization has reduced the overall number of marijuana arrests, people of color are still being targeted by police. Even in states with largely white populations, Black people using or selling marijuana still face high arrest rates,” USA Today reported.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 20: Andrew Gillum Jamarlin talks to Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and leading Democratic candidate for Florida governor. They discuss the DNC taking the Black vote for granted, its silence on the killing of 60 Palestinian protestors, and whether big tech and Silicon Valley elites can be regulated at the state level.

Take Colorado, for example. In 2012 it became the first state to legalize marijuana and the total number of marijuana arrests dropped by 52 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to state statistics. “But at the same time, the marijuana arrest rate for African-Americans – 233 per 100,000 –  was nearly double that of whites in 2017, and that’s in a state that’s 84 percent white,” USA Today reported. His pattern holds true in most other states that legalized weed.

“When you look at who is in jail for marijuana, it kind of explains it all,” actor and pot entrepreneur Whoopi Goldberg, of “The View,” said. “Black folks with marijuana went to jail a lot more than white folks with marijuana. I think it’s always been guy-oriented, and in particular white guys, because they could get away with it.”

Goldberg, 63, is also the co-founder of a medical marijuana company which she launched in 2016.

These stats have not discouraged Blacks from entering the business. Here are 10 African-American weedprenuers who are changing the business.

From Slinging On The Streets To Selling Legit

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Photo: Blunts + Moore

The streets of Oakland, CA, used to be where Alphonso “Tucky” Blunt would sell his product, but now Blunt, 39, sells weed products from his marijuana dispensary, Blunts + Moore.

Blunt opened the business with Brittany Moore, and they offer more than 500 cannabis-infused products, including flower, pre-rolls, edible, vapes, and CBD products.

“It affected everybody in my circle because it was only targeted to us. I knew white people that was selling weed that never went to jail,” Blunt recalled his life as a street dealer to USA Today. “The war on drugs was just about putting as many of us in jail as possible. It tore up a lot of families.”

The city’s own stats don’t lie: In 2015, 77 percent of the marijuana arrests in Oakland in 2015 were of African-Americans; whites accounted for just 4 percent of those arrests, even though the city’s population was about 30 percent white and 30 percent Black.

And when he wanted to enter the legal weed business Blunt, who got his criminal record cleared once he finished his sentence, found other obstacles. It was difficult to break into California’s majority-white cannabis club scene. Finally, through an equity program, he launched his marijuana store. “We’re not just budtenders, not just security guards anymore. We’re owners now,” he said. “To be able to sell this legally in my city, literally 10 blocks from where I caught my case, I’m fine – I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. I’m the new kid on the block, and I’m here to change the game.”

Nurse, Cannabis Advocate, Medical Marijuana Clinic Owner

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Registered Nurse Kebra Smith-Bolden is founder and CEO of  New Haven, CT-based CannaHealth, where her clients are medical marijuana patients. She also serves as deputy director of the state’s branch of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, through which she advocates for cannabis on the legislative level.

“Although this is weed, it’s not easy,” Smith-Bolden said. “It’s not simple. There are a lot of elements involved and it’s not for the faint of heart.”

Pushing For Diversity In The Cannabis Industry

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Photo: Unsplash

Mary Pryor has her own CBD product line and co-founded of Cannaclusive,  which aims to diversify the cannabis industry. “I feel that this is the last chance for generational wealth. I feel it in my bones,” she told News One.

According to its website, “Cannaclusive was created to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers. We were inspired by the growing opportunities yet disappointed by the diversity issues taking root in mainstream cannabis culture…We make it easier for brands to communicate with diverse audiences and ensure that minority consumers are not an afterthought, but a valued ally in the fight for legalization and destigmatization.”

Weed Head & More

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Photo: TheWeedhead.com

Dasheeda Dawson left a career in the corporate world to launch MJM Strategy, a consultancy that assists “businesses and municipalities navigate the cannabis marketplace with an emphasis on diversity in the industry and reinvestment in people harmed by the War On Drugs,” News One reported. Dawson also runs a marijuana business blog called The Weed Head. And, she is the president of Flora Buffalo, a high-tech cannabis campus focused on growing, testing, and selling the plant.

“With such a new industry, I have an opportunity to become an influencer and help people change their mind about what they think a cannabis user is,” Dawson said. “It’s been a whirlwind, but I love being an entrepreneur and think I’m fulfilling a passion.”

Colorado Weed Pioneer

Wanda James became the first African-American female dispensary owner in Colorado when 10 years ago she the co-founded edibles company Simply Pure.

She and her husband Scott Durrah, “became the first African Americans, legally licensed in America, to own a dispensary, a cultivation facility and an edible company.” News One reported.

James pushes for national cannabis reform led to her being named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times magazine in 2018. She has also been named one of the 2016 Cannabis Business Executive (CBE) 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry.

“What we didn’t know then that the industry was going to be wrapped in institutional racism that prevented people of color from being involved,” James said looking back to when she began her business. “It became important for us to be able to talk openly about what this was like and be able to get more people involved in the industry.”   

Thinking B.I.G.

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Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of Notorious B.I.G., poses in the press room at the Billboard Music Awards at the T-Mobile Arena on Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

CJ Wallace is the son of the late hip-hop legend Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace. He is also the founder of Think BIG, “a company that creates curated cannabis products rooted in three core pillars: creativity, curiosity, and collaboration, BE reported.

“Cannabis has been a huge tool for my family for as long as I can remember,” Wallace said. “Both of my parents used cannabis to access their creativity and to deal with the stresses that they went through.”

Think BIG promotes the safe use of cannabis through the development of new products, stories, research, and charitable projects. It also focuses on the use of cannabis as a tool to aid in personal expression, health, and wellness.

Wallace also pushes for criminal justice reform through advocating for the decriminalization of weed.

“Many people don’t know my dad was arrested for a cannabis conviction before he died,” said Wallace. “So had he lived, he would have been dealing with the criminal justice system like so many other Black men.”

The Power Of  Mary Jane

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Photo: Unsplash/Robert Nelson

“At the age of 25, Hope Wiseman became the youngest African-American dispensary owner in the country in 2017 when she opened Mary and Main, a medical dispensary in Prince George’s County, Maryland,” BE reported.

Wiseman, a former star of E!’s “WAGS Atlanta,” wants to see more people of color to invest in the industry as it continues to grow. “This will be bigger than the dot-com boom,” Wiseman said at the 2018 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit. “African Americans should be focusing on positioning themselves to be valuable in the industry—figure out what your niche is in the industry,” she advised.

Snoop’s In The House

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Snoop Dogg performs at The Levi’s Pre-Grammy Party With Snoop Dogg at The Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP)

Rapper Snoop Dogg has never been shy about his love for and use of marijuana. Now he runs a successful business in the cannabis industry, Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus co-founded the venture firm Casa Verde Capital in 2015. The company invests in ancillary cannabis businesses, such as agtech, health & wellness, financial services, technology, media, compliance, and laboratory technology firms.

Casa Verde Capital closed its debut fund with $45 million in 2017, according to TechCrunch.

In The Ring With Mike Tyson

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Mike Tyson attends the opening night ceremony of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

Former boxing champ Mike Tyson opened a 40-acre marijuana resort in Southern California called Tyson Ranch that produces high-quality strains of THC and CBD. Recently, Tyson also went into partnership with Planet 13, a top dispensary in Las Vegas to exclusively sell Tyson Ranch cannabis products, KTNV reported.

Cooking With Cannabis

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“Imagine a five-course, cannabis-infused meal, put together by one of the hottest chefs in New York. Welcome to 99th Floor where Chef Miguel (chef and founding partner of Maharlika and Jeepney) uses canna-oils and butters to create the ultimate, fine dining experience,” BE reported.  99th Floor also sells a line of edible candies available at select California dispensaries.