In the fight to end the war on drugs, one fact of cannabis prohibition has been prominent throughout history: that people of color are disproportionately affected by cannabis-related arrests and convictions. Although white and black Americans use cannabis at equal rates, people of color are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. Even in states where cannabis is legal, people of color are still twice as likely to face a cannabis charge.
As the cannabis industry becomes more robust, one way to help combat the war on drugs and its devastating effects on minority Americans is to support your local minority-owned cannabis companies. This is far from a complete list, but here are some great cannabis companies that are owned and operated by minority business owners.
Panacea Valley Gardens
Based out of Oregon, Panacea Valley Gardens is a medical cannabis cultivation facility owned by the co-founder and chairman of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), Jesce Horton. He also owns Panacea, an adult-use dispensary.
In 2016, Horton began developing a new vertically-integrated cannabis cultivation hub known as Saints Cloud. The facility is expected to have a 20,000 foot cultivation space, a dispensary, an onsite processing plant, and water recycling, solar paneling, and a heat exchange system for maximum energy efficiency. Eventually Horton hopes to add an event space, cannabis lounge, and bed & breakfast.
Hollingsworth Cannabis Company
Hollingsworth Cannabis is a family affair involving three generations of the Hollingsworth clan. Located in Washington, this Tier III I-502 licensed cannabis producer and processor offers cannabis flower and infused, triple filtered cannabis oil at a number of different retailers across the state.
Raft Hollingsworth III (also known as RT3) works alongside his father, Raft Hollingsworth, Jr., two sisters, and even their 96-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Hollingsworth. With a commitment to environmentally friendly practices, Hollingsworth uses naturally sustainable growing and harvesting practices to ensure that the company’s carbon footprint remains as small as possible.
Simply Pure, a dispensary in Denver, Colorado, is the brainchild of Wanda James and her husband, Scott Durrah. After a successful run at managing Caribbean restaurants, consulting companies, and even a bid for Congress, Ms. James saw a need to shed light on social justice issues related to cannabis. Her brother was arrested and charged with a felony for the possession of cannabis when he was still a teenager, and she saw his future branded with an irreversible mark. In wanting to put a new face on cannabis, she and her husband are aiming to change how the world views cannabis and especially people of color involved with cannabis.
Miguel Trinidad, the brain behind 99th Floor, was a renowned chef of Filipino cuisine when he decided to embrace cannabis with his own invite-only pop-up infused dinners. Trinidad hails from Dominican Republic, but spent time in the Philippines studying the local cuisine before opening a restaurant with his partner, Nicole Ponseca, in New York called Maharlika.
New York has very strict cannabis laws; ergo any invitations to this dinner are exclusive and very hush-hush. Trinidad carefully curates an entire multi-course meal that revolves around the strain chosen for each dinner. Less discreet is Trinidad’s new line of edible products and more gourmet pop-up dinners that will be available on the California cannabis market.
The American Cannabinoid Clinics
The American Cannabinoid Clinics is made up of a family of physicians who combined their respective fields to help thousands of patients in California, Oregon, and Washington seeking answers about medical marijuana. Dr. Janice Knox spent 35 years working in medicine, but when she retired, she continued to hear from patients that had questions about using medical cannabis.
Knox teamed up with her husband, Dr. David Knox, who has 37 years of clinical experience in Emergency Medicine, as well as both of her daughters; Dr. Jessica Knox, who specializes in Preventive Medicine, and Dr. Rachel Knox, who studied Family and Integrative Medicine. Together, the Knoxes have spent the last six years treating thousands of patients across the Pacific Northwest.
Supernova Woman is an organization formed by Women of Color in Cannabis in 2015 to help foster small cannabis business opportunities to become self-sufficient in the industry. The group, founded by Tsion “Sunshine” Lencho, Amber Senter, Nina Parks, Andrea Unsworth, offers a series called Shades of Green to educate communities of color on how to get involved with legislative efforts for cannabis, and how regulations and local politics can affect your business.
Located in California, the organization also offers professional services on how to build your cannabis business and how to stay in compliance. It works with people who have prior cannabis convictions to help get their records expunged, guiding them through the entire legal process. Supernova is especially aimed at creating and fostering a safe space for women of color in the cannabis industry. One of the founders, Andrea Unsworth, also owns the cannabis collective Stash Twist.
Cali Premium Produce
When Lynwood, California began accepting applications for permits in the Los Angeles County, Priscilla Vilchis jumped at the chance to grow and manufacture cannabis products as a Latina woman in the legal California market. With two medical marijuana cultivation and processing licenses already under her belt in Nevada, she won preliminary approval for a new retail cannabis business, Cali Premium Produce.
In Nevada, one of her flagship brands is cheekily named “Queen of the Desert,” and Vilchis is hoping to expand her flagship products to California. She will also be working on outreach efforts to educate the public and especially older generations in the Hispanic community on the benefits of cannabis.
Corey Stevens wanted to take advantage of the new legal cannabis market in Washington state, but he had no idea of the many obstacles he would have to overcome. Stevens had to fight tooth and nail to get a foot in the door. He applied for a license multiple times, applied for a Conditional Use Permit in the local jurisdiction, and submitted public comments to the county. Though he fought an uphill battle, his persistence paid off. Natural Blessing opened its doors in July 2016 and has been serving the cannabis community ever since.
Apothecarry was started by a 36-year-old Michigan State University graduate named Whitney Beatty. Initially Beatty did not set out to enter the cannabis industry; rather, she only looked into cannabis for therapeutic reasons after being diagnosed with anxiety. As Beatty became more and more educated and versed in cannabis knowledge, she didn’t identify with the pervasive image of “stoner culture” that stigmatized cannabis for so long. More and more, she found others who lamented the lack of high-quality storage for cannabis that could keep their stash safely out of reach from children and pets.
Available in the United States and Canada, the Apothecarry line includes its most popular product, the Apothecarry Case, a state-of-the-art Humidor organizational system crafted from hardwood and secured with a dual combination and key lock to prevent kids, pets, or nosy neighbors from seeing or smelling your stash. Not only is Apothecarry challenging long-held cannabis stereotypes, it’s one of the few companies owned by a woman of color and the entire operation was funded by minority investors.
Euphorium – Oakland
Euphorium in Oakland, California, is a woman-owned non-profit cannabis collective and delivery service. The owner, Charlita Brown, comes from a background in pharmaceuticals and uses her knowledge to make sure that patients’ questions are answered and that they are satisfied with both the product and the services provided. Brown also uses her cannabis collective as a platform to help empower women of color in the cannabis industry.
Aaron McCrary got his start as a cannabis cultivator in Washington state, working first underground and then within the legal medical marijuana market. When Nevada voted to legalize cannabis, he took a chance on the emerging market and is now known as the first black master grower in the state.
Zion Gardens, his 6,000-square-foot facility in North Las Vegas, is growing like a weed, and McCrary has plans to expand to a new building by January 2018. During the hiring process, McCrary goes out of his way to provide opportunities for other people of color, women, disabled individuals, and anyone else who might otherwise be excluded.
Commencement Bay Cannabis
Commencement Bay Cannabis, the first retail cannabis shop in Fife, Washington, is one of a kind. The Puyallup Tribe, native to the Pacific Northwest, transformed its former high-end cigar lounge, Stogie, into a classy upscale space for retail cannabis customers to peruse menus and make educated purchases. Commencement Bay Cannabis has inspired participation from Puyallup Tribal Council members, the Fife-Milton-Edgewood Chamber of Commerce, and other local business owners. The store celebrates the spirit of Mount Tahoma and the Puyallup River while providing high-quality cannabis in a judgement-free environment.