Social Equity // December 10, 2020 // Ben Berkowitz

The State of Black Cannabusiness

The State of Black Cannabusiness
Cannabis is in a new era of post-prohibition, and considered an essential industry in many states. Even a global pandemic cannot seem to stop its growth, with legal cannabis sales in the United States approaching upwards of $15 billion by the end of 2020 and the CBD market soaring towards $2.1 billion. Black athletes and celebrities are redefining the industry, and creating more social equity and opportunity, including Jay-Z, who launched his first line of products with California cannabis company Caliva, NBA star Al Harrington and his multiple state operating (MSO) Viola Brands, named for the ex -basketball player’s grandmother, and Mike Tyson,  whose Tyson Ranch has made headlines for years with his large-scale grow and shrewd marketing skills that seamlessly integrate the boxer’s household-name status with his new brand But for the average non-celebrity with far less than seven figures in their bank account, the licensing, financing, and other obstacles can seem insurmountable. We wanted to highlight a few social justice-minded entrepreneurs who have a vision for their business to increase economic growth, and also reinvigorate their communities with Black-owned cannabis business as a counterpoint to gentrification and the impact of the decades-long War on Drugs, which has left many people of color unjustly incarcerated, and communities in need of a more equitable share of the profits flourishing nationwide.

OURS - Chicago, IL

Organic Urban Revitalization Solutions (OURS) is a culture-driven brand entering the cannabis space. OURS was founded in May 2019 by a group of lifelong friends who share a deep affinity for social justice, Chicago pride and good cannabis. JT Stinnette heads the advisory board, Anton Seals is Chief Executive & Equity Officer, and Jamaal Kendrick is Chief Wellness Officer. The group has aspirations to create a cannabis experience in Chicago that is “homey.” The idea for the OURS dispensary is to create a space where all people feel like they belong, and everyone is welcome, especially those who have been historically marginalized and left out of the industry. With research and development of organic growing methods and social-justice-minded partnerships, the friends want to help the clandestine cannabis biz evolve and move into the legal market place. One of the biggest hurdles has been finding the right economic partners. The Chicago Urban league has been a good partner, and the group is in negotiations with others. Another hurdle has been the state of Illinois. A lawsuit filed against the state of Illinois on September 4, 2020 claims that the regulatory body administering adult use licenses mishandled the process. A court date has not yet been set.   Ever optimistic and diligent, the friends that started this journey with OURS continue to push forward, constantly learning from examples in states like California and Colorado. OURS hopes to soon bring that same level of options for cannabis and top-notch community service to their home state of Illinois.

Proper RX - Humboldt, CA

Elliot Marshall is founder and CEO of Proper RX. Along with his longtime friend Corey Campbell, general manager of Proper RX, and Erika McCartney as the CFO, Marshall operates primarily in the Bay Area. Proper RX has been in a constant state of growth since its humble beginnings back in 2008, when it originated as a vital medical delivery service for over 170 zip codes in the Bay Area. Over the years, it has moved into partnerships with manufacturers, and collaborated with artists including the Grammy Award-winning Morgan Heritage. Elliot says, “We have a mix of local and out-of-area products — and come January 1st, we'll be rolling out our in-house Bahamian Lifestyle Brands, that will only be available in our retail locations.” Livity is their brick-and-mortar dispensary in the heart of the cannabis world, Humboldt County, CA. Named after the Rasta concept of a spiritual life force in all living things, for Proper RX, Livity is an all-around lifestyle philosophy. Elliot has also been instrumental in helping the Bahamian government educate themselves about the benefits of cannabis, and begin to see a popular move toward legalization. Cannabis, according to Elliot, could be the saving grace for his home country, and also Bahamian cannabis business would be the Island nation’s first ever Black-owned industry.

Woodrow Labs Hollywood - Los Angeles, CA

Norwood Fisher is a bonafide rock starHis longtime band Fishbone has been touring and recording since 1979, and has been connected to cannabis for decades. Fishbone had cannabis action flyers for medical and legalization as early as 1996 on their merch tables, and strong relationships with magazines like High Times. Norwood proudly informs me, "Nobody has played the Cannabis Cup more times than Fishbone!" It was through the band’s activism that Norwood started seeing the medical and wellness benefits of the ever-popular CBD. So five years ago, he co-founded Woodrow Labs Hollywood, which exclusively manufactures CBD wellness and lifestyle products. Norwood explains, “I’m in the healing side of the game, the health and wellness.” He surmises, “We are artists, freaks, we have irons in a lot of fires. We want to make money, but bottom line is we want to help people.”