7 Culturally Diverse Changers Of The Cannabis Game

Apparently fewer than 1% of dispensaries are operated by people of color. However, these 7 entrepreneurs have succeeded despite the odds.

Jun 3, 2016

Over the past several years the Green Rush has provided a myriad of opportunities to entrepreneurs across the country. From dispensaries in which cannabis has been fully legalized, such as Colorado and Washington, to states in which there is still development to take place on the issue, such as New York and Maryland, cannabis has fast become a way for forward-thinking entrepreneurs to make some serious cash.

Leading by example

Yet despite the prosperity enjoyed by many demographic groups in the cannabis space, one group that is too often excluded is people of color. Many states that have passed medical cannabis bills have imposed strict laws preventing those with prior drug felonies from working within the industry, sometimes preventing them from even being patients, a decision that affects people of color disproportionately from other groups: According to one estimate, fewer than 1% of the nation’s dispensaries are operated by people of color.

Thankfully, however, these cannabis entrepreneurs have managed to succeed in the industry despite the deck being stacked against them. Here is a list of 7 people of color who are making it big in the cannabis industry – and setting an example for their peers in the process.

Dan Pettigrew

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The owner of Denver-based Viola Extracts is a substantial provider to the area’s medical cannabis industry and specializes in medical hash extracts. While he admits to loving the industry and the opportunities for a better life he provides to those who are suffering, he acknowledges the seriousness of his endeavor:

I wake up every day working. I go to bed every day with this industry on my mind. This is my focus. This is what pays my bills. This is what pays the bills of my employees and we take it very seriously… It’s a great opportunity, but it’s a grind and it’s a legitimate business.

Sue Taylor

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Ms. Taylor was awarded a cannabis shop permit last month by the Berkeley City Council, making her the nation’s first senior citizen to be awarded such a license. She has worked in healthcare and education for years, and will be a welcome addition to California’s burgeoning cannabis industry.

Sterling Crockett

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A successful entrepreneur himself, Sterling Crockett managed to assemble 18 Maryland-based African-American CEOs to invest in a fledgling medical cannabis business, Green Thumbs Industries, Maryland, a division of a larger parent company. Crockett has also long been active as a community and business leader.

Oren Lomena

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The enterprising radio personality hosts The Graux –rhymes with ‘grow’– and explores countless aspects of cannabis production and development. According to Lomena, this is meant in part to bring cannabis and the issues surrounding it into the mainstream:

We’ll cover cooking, the news of the day, sports, politics; it’s going to be a hodgepodge… We’re hoping to normalize the subject matter of cannabis.

Amber Senter

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Amber Senter has made a name for herself as the COO of the Oakland-based Magnolia Wellness, which has already served the Bay Area for 7 years. She is also the founder of Supernova Women, a community empowerment organization for women of color who wish to work in the cannabis sphere.

Wanda James & Scott Durrah

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This power couple became the first African-Americans to own a cannabis dispensary in the state of Colorado. Their medical-cannabis dispensary, Apothecary of Colorado, was ultimately sold, due to what they attribute to the banking hurdles associated with running a successful cannabis business. Yet while their business may no longer be in their hands, this couple’s place in the cannabis industry is set in stone.

Snoop Dogg

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What is there to say about Uncle Snoop that hasn’t already been said? After a legendary career in hip-hop, Snoop Dogg has capitalized on the cannabis industry by helping launch the cannabis-centered website Merry Jane. Snoop has also launched Leafs By Snoop,  which features a number of different strains as well as cannabis-based desserts and candies.

Is there a person of color crushing it in the cannabis industry who you’d like to see added to the list? Tell us on social media or in the comments below.

Jun 3, 2016