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Trail Blazers: Interview With A Cannabis CEO

This is the second installment of our four-part Black History Month special dedicated to honoring and celebrating Black communities in the cannabis industry.

Morris Kelly is someone who has truly done everything in cannabis. This San Francisco-born equity advocate and business owner has worked in every part of the cannabis supply chain from cultivation to manufacturing and distribution. In 2013 he founded SF Roots, hoping to honor and give back a community feel to San Francisco’s cannabis roots.

Morris is dedicated to the health and well-being of the diverse communities within San Francisco with a focus on equity and supporting our up-and-coming entrepreneurs. As a modern-day brand ambassador, Morris is well known in the industry as being the first Black face of cannabis.

In this interview, Morris talks about his personal journey with cannabis, what made him decide to get into the legal industry and how he envisions the future of cannabis in years to come.

Tell us about yourself and your journey with cannabis? How old were you when you tried weed for the first time, and how was that experience for you?

I’m the founder of SF Roots, San Francisco’s first cannabis equity company. Cannabis has always played an influential part in my life, from experimenting as a teen to becoming economically secure through the plant.

What is your all-time favorite cannabis product?

It would have to be an SF Roots x Lobo Cannagar. Our Orangeaide cannagar is packed with 2 grams of flower and infused with 0.2 grams of concentrate, hand-rolled with a hemp wrap, and finished with a glass tip. The mouthwatering terps deliver an out of this world experience with an elegant feel of the glass tip.  

What made you want to shift from being a cannabis consumer to being a cannabis businessman and getting into the industry?

I represent the traditional cannabis community, and as an entrepreneur in the legal industry, I have the opportunity to inspire other BIPOC to get into the cannabis industry. 

You’ve done everything in this industry: growing, making edibles, delivery, now you have your own brand. What advice would you give to anyone trying to make it in this fast-paced industry?

Never quit, especially if you’re coming for a traditional entrepreneur spirit. For those without financial backing, it’s a long road ahead. That work that you put in day in day out is everything. I would also advise that you connect with like-minded individuals in the industry to have a strong network to build together.

Photo by Hilary L. Yu / thisisourdream.com

SF Roots started in the medical marijuana market, then became recreational a few years later. What has changed, and where do you see it going in the next five years?

When I got into the industry under the medical marijuana market, it was much more diverse.  As a businessman under Prop 215, the way I carried myself and conducted business was more about what the plant could do for you as a medicine. With adult-use, a lot of that was lost in the hopes of gaining profit. 

Being a true craft cannabis brand, SF Roots is deeply influenced by your city and your community. How do you keep that tight relationship with your roots and stay true to them while at the same time growing the business?

It’s easy to maintain when you remain a part of your community, and your community remains a part of you.

Photo by Ashleigh Castro / Dope Magazine

SF Roots is San Francisco’s first verified equity brand. How does it feel being a BIPoC founder in a predominantly white industry, and what are you doing to bring more diversity to the legal cannabis space?

It feels like life. I started in the traditional market, which was more integrated than the current industry. The people that I do day-to-day business with are BIPOC. For me, it is impossible to even let that thought into my mind because it would distract me from work.

It’s unfathomable that we’re competing against companies with multimillion-dollar investments, but that is a testament to our values as an equity company. 

What does your day look like as a CEO in today’s cannabis industry?

Being an owner and operator of a vertically integrated cannabis company, at times, I’m in meetings with other CEOs, at the farm, or out in the field making sales. Some days I’m even driving the delivery truck all the way down to LA. My role as CEO is much more hands-on than a ‘traditional CEO.’

You’ve done everything in this industry: growing, making edibles, delivery, now you have your own brand. What advice would you give to anyone trying to make it in this fast-paced industry?

Never quit, especially if you’re coming for a traditional entrepreneur spirit. For those without financial backing, it’s a long road ahead. That work that you put in day in day out is everything. I would also advise that you connect with like-minded individuals in the industry to have a strong network to build together.

February 12, 2021
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February 12, 2021

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