Jeff Sessions’ refueled War on Drugs and the growing legal and medicinal marijuana economy, while opposed in philosophy, share one crucial similarity: neither is having a positive impact on Black communities. Even in states with decriminalization laws, cannabis reforms don’t protect Black people from disproportionate weed-related arrests. And high start-up costs and laws that disqualify people with felony drug convictions largely exclude them from dispensary ownership. An article published by The Root yesterday (August 30) explores how one San Francisco Bay collective, co-founded by three Black entrepreneurs with business and grassroots organizing backgrounds, works to bring more people of color into this predominantly White industry.
The Root says The Hood Incubator "has created an all-inclusive model designed to help Black and Brown people enter every phase of the legal marijuana business." Organizers Biseat Horning and Lanese Martin co-founded The Hood Incubator with Yale MBA Ebele Ifedigbo, and the trio’s varied professional backgrounds inform their model’s multifaceted approach.
The collective’s programming includes networking sessions that bring together hopeful entrepreneurs and venture capital firms, education talks on the legal and economic pathways to dispensary ownership, a 100-hour business accelerator program and apprenticeships with cannabis companies. The Hood Incubator designed all of these resources to combat the systemic barriers keeping people of color out of an industry that, especially given the racist roots of drug criminalization, they should rightfully be able to access.
“We liken it to the tech industry,” says The Hood Incubator’s communications director Juell Stewart about the cannabis economy. “There are economic and educational barriers that obstruct people of color from getting in on the ground floor of this industry.”
“The marijuana world can be very exclusionary," adds Ron Gershoni of Jetty Extracts, a legal cannabis extract producer that hosts one of the incubator’s apprenticeships. "Even though it is a progressive industry, a lot of owners tend to hire people they already know because of the nature of the business. So if you don’t have capital, real estate or connections, it is possible that a lot of people get shut out."
Those barriers, grounded in economic racism and segregation, have significant consequences. Buzzfeed reported last year that Black people own only 1 percent of all storefront marijuana dispensaries. The report adds that would-be owners without prohibitive felony marijuana convictions still must raise at least a quarter-million dollars to secure the necessary permits, property and supplies. Years of systemic racism in property and business ownership means that most African Americans cannot access the economic or social capital required to furnish that money. The Hood Incubator’s programs shoot to tackle this historic barrier by paving more pathways for Black and Brown people.
“We envision a model where a pool of minorities can fund growers; manufacturers—whether it’s tinctures, oils or edibles, suppliers and dispensaries,” Stewart elaborates. “We want to see a day when we have a group of people who invest in the entire cannabis industry.”
Learn more about the organization’s work at HoodIncubator.org and via the video below: