Entrepreneur, investor and musician Sean “Diddy” Combs paid $185 million for marijuana operations in three states to create the first and largest Black-owned and operated, vertically integrated multi-state operator in the world.
Vertical integration means Combs will own various stages of his company’s production process rather than relying on external contractors or suppliers.
Combs acquired the licensed cannabis operations in New York, Massachusetts and Illinois from Columbia Care, a provider of medical marijuana services and products, and Cresco Labs, the No. 1 U.S. wholesaler of branded cannabis.
The transaction is Combs’ first investment in the fast-growing U.S. cannabis industry. His stated mission is to open new doors in emerging industries for Black entrepreneurs and founders who are underrepresented and underserved.
Combs’ new assets will allow him to grow and manufacture cannabis products and distribute them to licensed dispensaries in major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston, and Chicago, and operate retail stores in three states.
A hip-hop artist, record producer and actor, Combs launched his own clothing line, Sean John, and founded an entertainment empire in the 1990s. A Howard University dropout, he has been credited with being a billionaire.
Throughout his career, Combs has a track record for breaking new ground and redefining industries.
“I think it’s amazing that Combs is making such a large investment in the cannabis industry,” said Marlo Richardson, the CEO of four Black-owned cannabis brands, including Just Mary, in an email to The Moguldom Nation. “Historically, people of color have suffered by the war on drugs and that suffering has impacted us in so many ways from criminal history to the ability to make and sustain significant income.”
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From 2001 to 2010, 88 percent of arrests in the U.S. were for simply having marijuana, according to the ACLU. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed a consistent trend: Despite roughly equal usage rates, Black people were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.
“Many Black celebrities and entertainers currently in the cannabis industry are merely the faces of a brand or a company,” Richardson told Moguldom. “But Diddy being in a position of ownership is what truly matters. We represent less than 1 percent of this cannabis market. I hope this business move encourages others to make investments into ownership.”
Richardson is one of the few Black women to have all four licenses in indoor cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail. She is also the founder of the wine brand, Braymar Wines and owns Stage 21 Bar and Grill in Culver City.
Cresco Labs brands include High Supply, Mindy’s Edibles, Good News, Remedi, Wonder Wellness Co., FloraCal Farms, and its national dispensary brand, Sunnyside.
Columbia Care operates 131 facilities including 99 dispensaries and 32 cultivation and manufacturing facilities. It provides medical cannabis and in 2021, launched Cannabist, a new retail brand, creating a dispensary network that leverages proprietary tech platforms. Its brands include Seed & Strain, Triple Seven, Hedy, gLeaf, Classix, Press, Amber and Platinum Label CBD.