The change we need is coming, and these entrepreneurs in the cannabis space prove it.
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.
Published: June 19, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News