Marijuana has been legalized in 23 states and Washington, DC primarily for medicinal use. The herb has been approved to tread a myriad of ailments including cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, chronic pain and anxiety. With this new industry growing steadily, many people are leaving the lives they know to pursue success with medicinal cannabis. However, very few of these people are minorities. In April, NBC published a series of reports analyzing the dearth of minorities getting involved in the medical marijuana industry and lists reasons for the lack of participation (criminal record, lack of finances, the stigma attached to the drug, etc.).

One of the states that has legalized medical marijuana is New York, a state that is building the framework for marijuana businesses as we speak. In fact, applications for marijuana licenses were due earlier this week. Dr. Greg Daniel, a Black physician and businessman, will be throwing his hat into the ring. “I consider myself to be an entrepreneur and being a successful entrepreneur demands the skillset of an innovator,” he says.  “Medical marijuana, as far as I can see, is one of the most innovative, interesting and progressive business enterprises that has occurred since the dot com era.”

Daniel looks to enter the marijuana business after years of developing and managing his own medical enterprises.  Having served his surgery residency in Buffalo and receiving an MBA from University of California-Irvine, he opened Buffalo Emergency Associates, a hospital services and outpatient care enterprise that  serviced over 750,000 patients annually at its heights. The patient-centric healthcare delivery model Daniel pioneered is now seen as a benchmark for the majority of successful urgent care centers in the nation. In 2012, he sold his medical enterprise to one of the largest hospital based service providers in the country, where he served as President of the National Urgent Care Division.

After two years in that role, he decided to explore the medical marijuana industry under the banner of Alternative Medicine Associates, LLC. His research has unveiled instances of ancient and medieval societies use of this herb for medicinal purposes, and he sees that as support for the further exploration of medical marijuana today. “We’re just now coming around and saying to ourselves, ‘Wait a minute. Maybe this thing isn’t as bad as everyone says and maybe there is some benefit associated with it,’” explained Daniel.  “’Maybe this product does have healing qualities associated with it.’”

He continues, “In the underground society, marijuana has created billions of dollars for the drug barons who participated in it. We are experiencing a change similar to that which took place with alcohol during the repeal from Prohibition to regulation in 1920, except, unlike alcohol, I think we’ll see much more positive influences emanate from the medical application and legal sale of this drug.”

The licenses that New York is offering are “seed to sale” licenses, meaning the holder is responsible for everything from the cultivation of marijuana plants to its sale at dispensaries. There are five licenses that are available and with each license, four dispensaries can be opened. Daniel looks to provide more opportunities for minorities with his license. One example would be the proposed cultivation center (formerly a Tyson Foods factory) in Buffalo that will provide as many as 75 jobs to an area that has felt the negative effects of unemployment.  It is Daniel’s hope to present any opportunity for minorities to become educated on the topic and benefit from the industry. “There’s a lot to learn in this profession. Marijuana has only become legal in multiple states last year. The number of individuals who have entered this profession with such a vast knowledge of this is mindboggling. It begs the question: How did everyone become so knowledgeable about it? The only answer I can give is that they’ve been practicing this profession for years,” laughed Dr. Daniel. He feels that Blacks have only recently become acquainted with the industry.

“In some large metropolitan areas, Blacks have been arrested at eight times the rate that Caucasians have been arrested for the use of this drug, despite having a very limited knowledge of the cultivation and production.”

Daniel, truly sees medical marijuana as a wave of the future. He foresees a “tsunami of money” coming in once marijuana is federally legalized, and he believes that it is in minorities best interest to participate. “I like to believe that I will be a trailblazer in this industry. I think, ultimately, success in this arena will require Blacks assuming positions of authority in this field.”

With a team of physicians, financial minds and healthcare professionals, Daniel believes that Alternative Medicine Associates has a strong shot at obtaining one of the coveted New York State licenses. It is his hope to expand into Nevada, Massachusetts and Florida (a state where minorities are especially outcast from the medical marijuana industry) and spread his gospel of upward mobility. “I want to build it in a way, so that I can exert control over the next decade or so. In that time, I want to create as many opportunities as I can for minorities to enter this profession.  I want to encourage, invite and educate minorities so they can willingly enter

“It’s my intention to use my influence as a fulcrum to encourage and induce Blacks and Latinos, to participate positively and legally in this field,” says Daniel.” We have taken the brunt of the heat associated with marijuana use over the decades. Now that it’s being legalized, it’s almost criminal that we are not participating.”