Is the Marijuana Industry Excluding African Americans?
In recent years seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Another 22 states have legalized medical marijuana. Thanks to this legalization, there are now many marijuana products on the market including cannabis-infused candy, cookies, soda, and cuisine prepared by specialized marijuana chefs.
According to ArcView Group Research, revenue from the U.S. marijuana industry is expected to grow to over $21 billion by 2021. However, even with this amazing growth, the industries forerunners are largely white. According to Amanda Lewis, a drug policy writer for Buzzfeed, African Americans own 1% of the nation’s 3,500 cannabis dispensaries.
Few people realize how difficult it is to break into the cannabis industry. The business plan is the first step to creating your dispensary, cultivation center, or store. Without a clear idea of your goals, assets, plans, and projections. It will be extremely difficult to obtain cannabis investors.
Once you have investors and funding secured, you can buy or rent a space, get a permit or license and open your business. The prices of these permits and licenses vary by location and the type of marijuana business you intend to open.
These permits and licenses are extremely expensive. Obtaining the funds to obtain these permits and licenses is one of the largest obstacles black entrepreneurs face. In Texas, the application fee $7,356 and the licensing fee is $488,520 for a two-year license.
There is currently a debate about whether the lack of funding for black entrepreneurs is caused by prejudice or a lack of knowledge about the industry and what it requires.
William Koffie, a Chicago lawyer, expressed his struggle with breaking into the industry. He admitted that he thought the process was simpler than it turned out to be, but he believed that finances and general prejudice were the main reasons he couldn’t break into the industry.
Koffie said, “I think African Americans have organizational issues coupled with the fact that the USA has an agenda against having us succeed. Most investment groups I went to felt that they were not willing to risk the application fees when they thought the chances of them being approved were slim to none. That was frustrating, and I felt that was a ‘nigger complex.’ Regardless whether the system is set up to weed us out, we still need to find ways to overcome those barriers.”
George Allen, co-founder of Comfy Tree, a marijuana consulting company, said “I don’t think minorities are properly informed on what it requires to have a dispensary. Many people don’t have the proper funding, and it’s not like you can walk into a bank and say, ‘Hey, I need a loan for this amount to open a dispensary.’…That’s one of the many reasons why we help minorities get the proper funding as well as knowledge on the marijuana industry through virtual classes online stocked with in-depth, interactive training on all subjects of cannabis.”
While some companies may have some prejudice, it is agreed lack of information and funding is the main obstacle for black entrepreneurs, not race. Companies have been developed specifically to help minority businesses, and problems within the industry have been addressed quickly. While there is a lack of diversity in the marijuana industry, many companies and policies are being put in place to create equal opportunity.