For those of you who don’t know why 420 is trending today, take a hit of this: people all over the world are celebrating (in a really subdued way) the plant cannabis, better known as marijuana, or more colloquially, weed.
For Black folks, far too many have faced incarceration and worse for possession of the drug, but despite vows to crack down by the Department of Justice, laws and culture have become relaxed toward it and an industry of marijuana dispensaries and advocacies have emerged behind it. So where are we in this equation? Unfortunately way behind. Buzzfeed reported last year that African-Americans own about 1 percent of the 3,200 to 3,600 retail marijuana dispensaries in the country.
No, we’re not telling anyone to go out and take up smoking weed or start slinging dime bags. It’s still federally a Schedule 1 controlled substance, thus in the eyes of the U.S. government, technically illegal despite the changes going on within states. But with the ganja biz burgeoning, it’s remarkable that so few Blacks have taken the entrepreneurial steps to be on the ground level in the legalized form of the business. It may be because of the heavy start up costs, and not every one is currently in the right states for the business. While entrepreneurs in Washington State and Colorado have opened up to dispensaries, others in states with heavy Black populations like Texas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi have not, recreational or medical.
However, there are some Black people who are giving it a try. Here are five who are doing it very creatively.
Leafs By Snoop
Of course Snoop Dogg is a weed entrepreneur. As long as he’s been singing the praises of the bud, it stands to reason he’d go in to business. He selected several strains of the plant, which he began to market through dispensaries in 2015. The product is made under a Colorado marijuana license which belongs to a Denver-based company known as LivWell. According to the Leafs By Snoop website, it is currently available in dispensaries in Colorado and Canada.
More than a year ago, EBONY spoke with Charlo Greene, who shocked the airwaves in Alaska when she abruptly announced on live television that she’d be exiting her broadcast news reporter job to go into the marijuana field full time by saying “f*ck it, I quit.” Fast forward and she has inhaled even deeper in her advocacy with a YouTube program she calls “The Weed Show”. To give it a simple explanation, she and her guests talk about all things weed. Topics range from fitness to health to politics to cuisine and more. Plus, she smokes a Cheech and Chong level of weed on the show. All jokes aside, her companion website keeps her followers informed about societal and political news about Mary Jane.
Damian Marley and Ocean Grown Extracts
The son of the late prophet himself is just as much of an advocate for ganja as his dad, but more of an entrepreneur. Last October he announced that he was converting a closed down California prison into a marijuana farm intended to cultivate the plant for medical dispensaries, according to Billboard.com. Marley, who partnered with San Fernando Valley-based Ocean Grown Extracts to buy the prison for $4.1 million and reportedly create 100 jobs in the process. He also has been producing a strain of weed called Speak Life with the company which is distributed in dispensaries throughout California.
This all-purpose marijuana experience business based in Denver is as much about educating the consumer as it is about being a dispensary of cannabis and its edible products. The owners, Wanda James and husband Scott Durrah even offer cooking, catering and excursions according to their website. They also cater specially to military veterans who use the plant as a medicine. They opened for as a dispensary in 2015, becoming the first Black entrepreneurs in Colorado to do so. They offer both recreational and medical products, plus edibles and accessories.
Marijuana is available in Washington D.C. Okay, this probably isn’t news, particularly if you went to college there. But District Growers owner Corey Barnette, whose career background includes engineering and investment banking and venture capital, saw an opportunity when the nation’s capital legalized weed for recreational use in 2014. He started out in California, where he and his partners San Diego Medical Collective created a viable operation, but because of dustups with the feds he sold his business there and eventually wound up in Washington where he founded his new business and now boasts being the largest dispensary in the city, selling both cannabis and edibles.