People of color historically disadvantaged by the nation’s marijuana laws are largely missing out on burgeoning cannabis opportunities and wealth now that legalization spreads across the states—and minority entrepreneurs are pushing for change.
“I was the only Black woman for a long time in a lot of rooms—sometimes, still am,” said Iyana Edouard, a 27-year-old cannabis marketing specialist and content creator in California. For five years, she ran Kush & Cute, a small business that sold hemp skin care products.
When Edouard launched her company, it was one of the few brands of its kind owned by a Black woman, but as the industry grew in popularity, the influx of regulations and corporate competition made it “a lot harder for the small people to stay in the game,” she said in a telephone interview. In May, Edouard put a pause on Kush & Cute.
Minorities, including women, may find the cannabis sector of today cultivating more diversity, Edouard said, but “it is easier for White, wealthy women to get in the space because they have the resources.”
Because weed is outlawed federally, bank loans and tax breaks aren’t an option for people of color lacking ample financial backing. Meanwhile, venture capitalists and businesses with angel investors build their own cannabis empires.
While a handful of Black celebrities, including rappers Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z, have successfully broken into the industry, they’re outliers in a White-dominated sector. About 80% of marijuana business owners and founders identify as White, according to a 2017 survey by Marijuana Business Daily. Only 5.7% of these entrepreneurs are Hispanic or Latino, and 4.3% are Black.
“It’s not easy,” said 25-year-old C.J. Wallace, who launched Think BIG, a Black-owned company focused on cannabis legalization and other social justice issues. It previously sold limited-edition cannabis products in 2019.
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Published: November 30, 2021