You know — hopefully not personally, although that’s sadly a possibility — that the War on Drugs hasn’t been kind to black people. It’s just a sad fact. And that sad fact could get a whole lot sadder.
Those with capital and business acumen are flooding into states like Colorado, Oregon and California, looking to strike it rich (or richer) in the weed business.
Say you’re a cannabis expert, someone who has risked prison to sell on the streets for years. And say despite your business providing you and your family with income, you lack the kind of money needed to retain lawyers and to purchase a storefront and to pay licensing fees. What are you supposed to do?
Are you destined to watch as corporations and your former customers cash in?
How can we make sure that as the world’s most important green enters the cannabis conversation, that the black people who were targets of the War on Drugs get their fair share?
In Oakland, California, where last year’s Proposition 64 made adult recreational use of marijuana legal, three black millennial community organizers have teamed up to help marijuana professionals in their community make the jump to legitimacy.
Lanese Martin, Ebele Ifedigbo and Biseat Horning began the Hood Incubator in 2016. In a video explaining the initiative, Ifedigbo says the trio “want to take folks who ... are already operating in the underground, maybe they already have a whole distribution channel and a whole customer base, but they don’t know the exact licensing,” and give them the resources they need to become successful black business owners.
A void exists when it comes to investing in black business, Ifedigbo laments, noting, “when you look at business investment, less than one percent of venture capital funding or loans in this country are going to black business owners.”
To that end, the Hood Incubator looks to inject $30,000 into black business through their Pre-Seed Accelerator. Accelerator participants undergo 100 hours of business and legal training over four months. Martin stresses that the accelerator isn’t just important for the legal and regulatory knowledge it imparts, but for the networking opportunities it creates. “Like anything else, business comes down to relationships and the community that you’re able to curate.”
A lot is at stake for the Hood Incubator’s first class: Horning says that California’s medical marijuana industry rakes in $3 billion a year; the state’s legalization of recreational usage will add an additional $3 billion to that number by 2020.
All that money creates what Horning calls “a huge opportunity for us to cultivate and create a new industry that centers and honors our histories and our traditions of healing.”
Godspeed, Hood Incubator.
If you would like to help these three heroic Americans help to correct an unpleasant history, you can find out how to lend your support on their website.