As the march to legalize weed across the country continues, in the states where marijuana is legal there has been a noticeable trend that seems to have taken hold: Black entrepreneurs being blocked out of the marijuana business where millions are being made. States like Colorado and California are ground zero for the industry, but the owners of the businesses supplying different sections of the industry, the growers, the owners of the retail stores, and other ancillary businesses catering to the industry are majority white. This trend shows an interesting dynamic being that African Americans and Latinos are mostly those getting arrested for marijuana possession, but once it looks like its becoming legal, they are the very same people that are blocked out the business.
Earlier this year, BuzzFeed published an article titled How Black People Are Being Shut Out Of America’s Weed Boom. That article highlights the issues many African Americans are facing getting into the industry. Issues like criminal records, permits, and the perception of who the participants are in the legal marijuana business all play a part in why Black people are not taking part in the industry in a major way. Buzzfeed isn’t the first to highlight this problem, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell actually wrote about this problem in 2014 the Miami New Times in his weekly column. That article titled Black Entrepreneurs Being Left Out Of Medical Marijuana Boom, talked about the issue from a local standpoint in Florida, but the point was the same. One memorable quote in that column was the people from Colorado who are advising legislators in Florida in setting up their medical marijuana industry.
But take a good look at the new generation of “ganjapreneurs.” They are predominantly white men like Tripp Keber, a former Capitol Hill staffer during the Reagan administration.
To understand why who actually owns the businesses in the legal marijuana market matters, you have to understand the effect The War On Drugs had on minorities. You also have to understand the potential the legal marijuana can have on these effected communities.The American Civil Liberties Union released a report 2013 titled The War On Marijuana In Black And White, where they examined the statistics and the difference in arrest patterns between Black and white people. In their report, they concluded Blacks are three times as likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than a white person even though they are similar in usage. In some states over ten times as likely to get arrested for possession. They also claim over $1 billion has been spent enforcing laws against marijuana, money they say is being wasted.
In 2016, CNBC reported that legal marijuana sales have reached over $5 billion. Investors are tripping over themselves to get in the industry. Some have already invested in different parts of the industry, and they are part of efforts to push legislation through locally and nationally that will legalize marijuana and lay the foundation for a viable business. Most of these investors are white and are pushing into the industry because of the profit potential. An industry that generates over $5 billion would be huge for minority communities, that money could go to providing good paying jobs, careers for people who are stuck working for minimum wage, and revitalize communities. There are some Black people who see the opportunity and are jumping in the fray, Whoopi Goldberg, Snoop Dogg are jumping in. Black Enterprise published a story about the opportunities Black entrepreneurs can have with legal marijuana. Even though industry is getting some high profile entrants and attention from minority publications, by and large the majority of participants in the legal weed market are white. So as 4/20 approaches and people light up to celebrate, take a minute before you pull and think about who is benefiting from your high.