There have been and continues to be several articles, blogs, podcasts and other venues speaking to the wealth of opportunity in the legal marijuana industry that is projected to be roughly $40 billion in the year 2020. There have also been articles, blogs, podcasts and industry event discussions about diversity, the need for it and how industry leaders are committed to seeing change in the business entrepreneur landscape particularly with people of color.
While the above is clearly a work in progress, this is against a back drop of significant burden men of color carry. The burden is heavier to lift and can be harder shake off when facing barriers and obstacles such as past criminal records, legalization in states with larger diverse populations, access to the capital and influence necessary to obtain legal cannabis licenses and the big mountain; securing capital to begin and run a successful business.
Criminalization is undoubtedly the Mt. Everest challenge to overcome and setting aside convictions of marijuana offenses are beginning to gain momentum. But the access to capital is the other summit to be ascended and is paramount in the legal marijuana and hemp industry for those seeking entry.
Institutional loans from banks is frequently a non-starter and a select few in the minority community have the assets to act as angel investors for entrepreneurs. If lucky, one can secure angel investors from outside their respective community but can wind up foregoing majority ownership to secure that investment.
Ultimately for men of color trying to eradicate the barriers of entry in the cannabis industry, we must reply on a shrewd strategy of finding the right business partners who bring capital, a shared vision, positive energy and the business acumen to start and stay for the entire journey.
Additionally, we must find the right strategic alliances to help navigate the landscape with expert insights and embracing/executing on good advice. Finally, we must deploy a strategy of helping one another and sharing knowledge without seeking to upend one another.
This is a time where the “crab in the barrel” mentality is simply unacceptable, and that old way of thinking holds everyone hostage in a game where the stakes are high and valuable time is wasted.
We all can play and we all can win.
It is imperative.
C. E. Hutton, President & CEO