Did you know that African Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people? Both ethnicities consume cannabis at about the same rate, yet a 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union states that Black people are .64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for it.
This Black History Month we are celebrating those who have defied the odds and found success in the legal cannabis industry. These business owners, entrepreneurs and innovative minds have already helped shape the legal industry for decades to come.
Here is a list of Leafwell’s five favorite Black-Owned cannabis & hemp companies:
Ball Family Farms operates out of Los Angeles, California and was one of the first to benefit from the Department of Cannabis Regulation’s Social Equity Program. The program was designed to provide resources to help prospective minority business owners succeed in the industry. Ball Family Farms CEO and founder Chris Ball says the program has great potential but falls short of providing everything needed to help business owners succeed.
All this aside, Ball was able to find success and has investigated expanding from California to Oklahoma City. As a teen and young adult, Ball put himself through college by selling marijuana. Graduating from UC Berkeley he went on to play in the NFL for the San Francisco 49’ers and then played with the Canadian Football League.
It was while in Canada that he learned to grow cannabis and working with OG cultivator “Mr. Miyagi” he took a 14 light grow room to a 60-light grow facility. Now, Ball Family Farms is still growing even in the uncertain times of the pandemic.
Chris Ball spoke to Leafwell and said:
“There needs to be some assistance, financial aid, or tutors; some direction to help social equity applicants get to where they need to be and teach them how to run their cannabis business. And they just don’t have it right now.
I liken it to my scholarship to play football at UC Berkeley; had Berkeley just given me a scholarship and admittance to the school but didn’t give me money for books, food, somewhere to live, and tutors. Well, then I wouldn’t have been very successful at college. I wouldn’t have made it through.”
An Oakland, California native, Jessie Grundy was another Black entrepreneur who was able to take advantage of the Social Equity Program to create a thriving business. Unlike Chris Ball however, Grundy says he probably wouldn’t have been able to start his business without the Social Equity Program and the $100K interest free loan offered in his hometown of Oakland.
Grundy told Black Enterprise in an interview that traditional word-of-mouth has been the best marketing strategy for The Peakz Co. since it first started. Their other main sources of advertising are Instagram and influencers, mostly young Black women, promoting their products.
A Black-owned and women-owned pair of cannabis companies, Amber Senter is founder and CEO of The Congo Club and Breeze Distro. The U.S. Coast Guard veteran and Oakland, CA resident is known as a cannabis pioneer, equity advocate and is also co-founded Supernova Women, an organization for women of color in the cannabis industry.
The Congo Club offers unique and hard to come by cannabis strains like Red Congolese, an heirloom strain that is sought-after in the Bay Area. Breeze Distro meanwhile offers a number of services to the cannabis industry including sourcing products, processing, packaging, labeling, storage and product distribution.
Owned by Mahala Herron, Hala Hemp is a Black female-owned CBD company on a mission. Herron, a rising star who recently graduated from UCLA in 2020, says she created Hala Hemp to address the injustice against Black and brown people in the cannabis industry, for those imprisoned and to bring awareness. The goal, according to Herron, is to “re-claim and destigmatize” cannabis.
In fact, 5 percent of all sales go to The Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit that works to get those with non-violent cannabis charges out of prison. Long term goals including being able to give away products to the homeless and less fortunate and to educate people on the benefits of cannabis and hemp.
This Mexico City CBD brand was founded by a Latinx and Black female power duo. Karina Primelles and Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey created Xula CBD products with the goal of creating a brand that recognizes everyone of all walks of life. As their website says, a wellness brand that uses CBD and other cannabinoids to introduce communities to the ancient art of herbal medicine.
Sourcing only the highest quality hemp, Xula CBD products come from a women-led and family-owned farm in Southern Oregon. The brand also partners with The Floret Coalition, an anti-racist collective of small cannabis industry businesses.
Supporting Black-Owned Businesses
These CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs are only a handful of many African American and minority owned brands that have been able to thrive in the cannabis industry. After decades of prohibition and criminalization that wreaked havoc on these communities, they are striving for change. Supporting these businesses and others like them not only supports Black-owned cannabis businesses, but in many cases, it contributes to important causes like Cannabis for Black Lives and The Floret Coalition.
Change is something that doesn’t happen overnight, and these individuals have worked hard to get where they are today. Leafwell encourages you to support these brands and others who are working to create a better world as we continue to push for sensible cannabis policy reform across the country.