How can Black people get rich off cannabis, too?
It’s a question I’ve asked multiple Black cannabis professionals over the past month. While I’ve received many different answers and pieces of advice, the truth is, it all comes down to one thing: a true and complete industry demand for reparations to those harmed most by the war on drugs—completely backed, supported, and upheld by the government.
Social Equity Programs
The single most important thing for Black people in the cannabis industry is a social equity system built by the government to help educate, support, fund, build, and give Black people the opportunity to succeed across all channels of this industry.
The very first social equity program in cannabis was created in Oakland, CA in 2016. It was designed to reserve and provide licensing, as well as funding, to Black cannabusinesses. It was also the prototype that every other cannabis equity program (in Los Angeles, Massachusetts, etc.) was built on.
“The whole purpose of their equity program was to give people of color and people with [criminal] records opportunities and ownership that white people have had in cannabis,” said Tucky Blunt, co-owner of Blunts+Moore, the very first dispensary to open under Oakland’s social equity program. “[This helps] people who have wrongly been targeted by the War on Drugs to obtain money in this industry legally.”
Blunt, now 39, has been trying to open a cannabis retail location since the age of 22. However, as a person of color with a criminal history, he was barred from entry for so long that he had already given up. Until this program came along.
“Without this program, I would’ve been stuck,” he told me. “I tried to open my first dispensary around [age] 22. Me and my cousin had $1.5 million cash, and one of our white homeboys [in the industry] told us flat out, ‘The way it’s set up now, y’all will never get in. You can buy the property and all the stuff, but once they find out it’s a Black owner, it’s going to be a problem.’”
This deep-rooted system of oppression in the cannabis industry is the exact reason Day 1 Equity, in all counties, cities, and states that legalize cannabis, is so important. The day legalization happens, there needs to be a social equity program that simultaneously goes into effect.
Funding—and a Lot of It
Two. Million. Dollars. That’s the number I heard when I asked Raft Hollingsworth, co-owner (along with his wife, Joy) of Hollingsworth Cannabis, how much it would take to open a Tier III producer/processor facility in Washington State.
Three. Million. Dollars. That’s what Tucky Blunt quoted for the lowest possible amount of cash one would need to open a dispensary in California.
The cost of creating a plant-touching business is astronomical when it comes to licensing, manufacturing, operating, and general overhead. Son. Who has that kind of money?
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News