This article was originally published on The WeedHeads blog, authored by Dasheeda Dawson.
While researching for the latest update of our top-selling workbook, How to Succeed in the Cannabis Industry, 3rd edition, I found information around Black and Hispanic-owned businesses in the legal cannabis industry underwhelming. Far too often invisible. From High Times Magazine to MJ Biz Daily, people of color are rarely included in the global lists highlighting key cannabis industry insiders in significant numbers. Only a few consistent names make the mainstream round-ups, largely focused on big name celebrities doing little to truly impact the industry's public perception, government regulations or social equity.
For most, especially men of color, there are no shortcuts to success in the legal cannabis industry. Through the years, I have been inspired by those working passionately on the ground to make it happen for themselves and their communities. Yet, the stories of impactful work, inherent risks and incredible sacrifices of the Black and Latinx cannabis community remain far too often untold. Legitimate and visible representation matters to the future of this industry. While too many men of color have been rendered victims or criminals by prohibition, there are some making headway in legal cannabis. This list offers a glimpse into the ways Black and Hispanic men are trailblazing the legal cannabis industry. These 65 outstanding men are truly pioneers, reshaping the narrative around marijuana and hemp to push the movement beyond past incarceration and current domination by a wealthy and privileged few. This list of men to watch in 2020 aims to inspire, motivate and empower the next wave of professionals, entrepreneurs and investors looking for their successful path into the legal cannabis industry.
As one of the first internal medicine doctors in Florida to recommend medical cannabis treatments for patients, Dr. Joseph Rosado is a global pioneer and best-selling author of Hope & Healing: The Case for Cannabis. He is the CEO of International Medical Consultants and medical director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana.
Raft Hollingsworth III is the CEO and co-founder of The Hollingsworth Cannabis Company (THC Co), a Black-owned, family farm developing premium cannabis products for the Washington market. THC Co. has been featured on CNN, Buzzfeed and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Board Chairman for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, co-founder of Art 420 and founder of Monarch Manufacturing & Distribution, Erik Range wears many hats as an entrepreneur and leading advocate in the cannabis industry. A seasoned community engagement director, he is also co-host of CannaTalk with Roz, providing weekly cannabis insights and education. He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Co-founder of the California Minority Alliance and a founder emeritus of the Southern California Coalition , Virgil Grant is an OG pioneer and staple in the California cannabis industry. A dispensary owner for over 15 years, he has been at the forefront of the movement for social equity since Prop 215 as both an entrepreneur and an activist.
#5 Jim Jones - Global
Legendary hip-hop icon Jim Jones is the face of Saucey Extracts, a California-based brand known for a patented extraction methodology to create full-spectrum cannabis oil. Bringing his east coast flare to the Cali market, Jim Jones has been featured on cannabis panels at Source 360 Summit and Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo (CWCBExpo).
Award-winning advocate and pioneer in the cannabis industry, Leo Bridgewater is the National Director of Outreach for Edify PAC, working toward responsible, regulated, and socially just cannabis access and distribution. A strong and well known voice for veteran access to medical marijuana, Leo is also the National Director of Veterans Outreach for Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM).
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Rasean Hodge is a family physician and medical director of Premier Chronic Pain Care in Atlanta. In addition to serving three times as "Doctor of the Day" for the Georgia House of Representatives, Dr. Hodge was a contributory factor in writing the law for HB 722 and its inclusiveness of Peripheral Neuropathy, as one of the qualifying conditions for participation in Georiga's medical cannabis program.
David Kellman, an experienced cannabis cultivator and vape technologist, is the Strategic Partnerships Manager for The WeedHead & Company, working to de-stigmatize the plant and educate consumers on cannabis as medicine. A college athlete turned advocate of criminal justice reform and sustainable environmental practices, David uses his platform MoarBluntsnStuff to be a unique voice for millennials focused on conscious cannabis consumption and patient-centered regulations.
A cannabis advocate since high school, Jason Ortiz started his career in advocacy with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and has worked with multiple organizations to put together model legalization bills for cannabis policy development. Today, he is President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), the first 501(c)(6) non-profit business league created to serve the specific needs of minority cannabis entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers.
Award-winning cannabis reporter with nearly 5,000 articles published on mass media, Javier Hasse is the author of "Start Your Own Cannabis Business: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Marijuana Business," a #1 best-seller on Amazon via Entrepreneur Press. He is also Managing Director at Benzinga Cannabis.
NFL Super bowl champion and cannabis advocate, Marvin Washington has become a leading voice in the huddle of former NFL players speaking out about the benefits of CBD for opioid addiction and CTE. He is the VP of Business Development for Isodiol, co-founder of Isodiol's performance brand, Iso-sport and on the Board of Directors for Athletes For Care.
After 18 years of experience in executing top development and management projects in New York City, Florida, & Haiti, James Victor is the co-founder and CEO of James Henry SF, a responsible lifestyle, health and wellness brand with proprietary cannabis formulations for therapeutic use. He is also a member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) Medical Committee.
Mehka King is a journalist, host of the "CashColorCannabis" podcast, and the filmmaker behind The Color Green: Cash, Color, and Cannabis a documentary investigating racial disparities in the cannabis space. CashColorCannabis is "a higher level of conversation" highlighting upcoming brands and voices in the budding industry.
A former NYC teacher and sales executive for JP Morgan Chase, Rani Soto is an educator, advocate and entrepreneur within the cannabis industry. After helping to launch the largest recurring cannabis industry networking event in New York, he is now president of Brote AG, a hemp distribution company. He also serves as National Director of Latinx outreach for Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM).
Corporate-to-cannabis crossover, John Gilstrap went back to his farming roots as co-founder and VP Business Development for Hudson Hemp, an association of farmers located in NY's Hudson Valley focusing on regenerative agriculture and soil science to cultivate organic sun grown hemp using environmentally sustainable practices. He is also co-founder of the NY Cannabis + Hemp Trade Association.
Alphonso Blunt is co-owner of Oakland's Blunts + Moore, the first fully equity-owned dispensary in the world. An Oakland-native, Alphonso had been working to open a dispensary since 1999 before he was awarded a license by the city through the equity program lottery.
A U.S. Navy Veteran and retired firefighter paramedic, Stanley Atkins is an advocacy leader and medical cannabis healthcare educator in Georgia, where he played an active role in the formation and expansion of the GA Medical Cannabis Program (HB65) along with key decriminalization laws. Best-known as "The CanniMedic", Stanley is the M4MM chapter president for Georgia and go-to cannabis resource for state legislators, brands and consumers in the market.
The most vocal public advocate for full cannabis legalization in Minnesota, Marcus Harcus is an experienced community organizer and former City Council candidate responsible for launching the Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization (MN CFL) in 2017 after four legalization bills were introduced in the state legislative session. In his role as Executive Director, Marcus' efforts helped to elect a pro-legalization governor in 2018.
Jesce Horton is a well known pioneer in the cannabis industry with many noteworthy accomplishments including co-founder of Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and founder of award-winning Panacea Valley Gardens, a state-of-the-art Oregon cannabis cultivation. Recently, he co-founded NuLeaf Project, specifically designed to address the various hurdles that people of color face when entering the cannabis industry. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Founder of Philadelphia's Color of Cannabis Conference, Tauhid is a digital content expert with the Philadelphia Inquirer. As an executive board member for the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ), he used his influence to create the first media-led cannabis conference aimed specifically to reverse the stigma of cannabis use and to educate local media on why covering underrepresented minority issues surrounding cannabis legalization is important and necessary as a function of the media industry.
Sean Tolliver is co-founder and CEO of CannaTrax (C-Trax) Software Solutions, provider of point of sale (POS), customer relationship management (CRM), merchant services and business intelligence to cannabis retailers. Now working with some of the largest hemp retailers in North Carolina, Sean is an active advocate for legalization, serving as both co-president for M4MM North Carolina chapter and on the board of directors for Charlotte NORML.
Retired NBA champion, Matt Barnes came into the cannabis advocacy spotlight after admitting to smoking weed before every NBA game. Already known for his advocacy work as founder of Athletes vs. Cancer (AVC), a 3-day event aimed at raising awareness for cancer research, Matt added a cannabis component to the ACV all-star weekend in 2018. He is also the first athlete endorsed by RAW papers and now launching his own brand of pre-rolls called Swish, in partnership with Sacramento-based Seven Leaves.
A Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) alum, Jake Plowden is co-founder and Deputy Director of the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA), a NY-based non-profit organization helping marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, emphasizing criminal justice reform, access to medical cannabis, and adult use legalization. He is also executive producer and co-host of In the Know 420 podcast.
Canadian native , Raymond C. Dabney is co-founder and CEO of Cannabis Science, Inc. (OTC: CBIS), a U.S. company founded in 2009 specializing in the research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines. CBIS works with leading global experts in drug development, medicinal characterization, and clinical research. It is one of the key industry partners in the recently launched, ground-breaking International Phytomedicines Institute (IPI) at Harvard Medical School.
An expert on market research, John Kagia has been delivering big data insights for 15 years. Now, Chief Knowledge Officer for New Frontier Data, John was the one of the first data scientists to focus exclusively on legal cannabis. A highly-sought speaker and advisor, he oversees development of data, business intelligence, and risk management solutions for businesses and municipalities navigating the industrys complex global dynamics.
A highly-decorated executive chef and U.S. Marine veteran, Scott Durrah is co-founder, COO and Master Cannabis Chef for Simply Pure, one of the first dispensaries owned by an African-American in the country. As a cannabis industry leader and advocate, he has been featured across multiple media outlets, including CNBC's Marijuana USA and remains a strong voice for more minority inclusion in the industry.
Landon Dais is the Chief Strategy Officer of Plant Inspired Future (PIF), a minority-owned multi-state cannabis operation with a medical marijuana license in Michigan and hemp license in New York. An accomplished cannabis professional, political strategist, attorney & public speaker, Landon is also General Counsel to Plush Green Hemp Company and previously served as NY State Policy Director for Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Nadir Pearson is a multi-talented millennial taking the cannabis industry by storm with his content creation, digital strategy and passion for advocacy. While at Brown University, Nadir launched the Student Marijuana Alliance for Research and Transparency (SMART), a college cannabis community striving for positive social change. He is also a digital media strategist for Ardent Cannabis and Herb.
With more than 10 years in food service management, Luis Vega is a well-known east coast cannabis advocate and now, the only Latino to receive an industrial hemp license in Connecticut. Founder of Wepa! Hemp Farms, producing thousands of pounds of hemp flower for CBD products and stalk for construction, he is also co-host of Cannabis Corner: New Haven on 103.5 FM WNHH Community Radio. He is a member of Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Inc.
Brooklyn-native and political strategist, Kamani Jefferson is co-founder and principal at North Star Liberty Group. With an extensive background in regulatory and municipal affairs as a cannabis lobbyist, Kamani focuses on multi-state public policies in this emerging industry. Before North Star Liberty, Kamani served as the President of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council (MRCC).
Retired NBA player, Al Harrington founded Viola Brands in 2011, naming the company after his grandmother. Inspired by her experience as a cannabis patient, Al has become a global cannabis advocate and Viola is now a nationwide leader in the production and sale of premium quality cannabis products, licensed to operate in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and California, with plans to expand into Arizona and Nevada in 2020.
Known as "The Digital Marketing Ninja", Gary George has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years as President & CEO of Blazin' Multimedia helping companies in multiple industries increase revenue, market share and customer loyalty with creative & technical digital marketing solutions. He recently transitioned his expertise into the cannabis industry, launching Real Cannabis Entrepreneur, providing professional training and coaching from an elite group of proven cannabis pioneers.
Jose Belen is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran and co-founder of Florida Mission Zero, a nonprofit organization addressing the PTSD and suicide epidemic plaguing U.S. veterans. An inspiring public speaker and an outspoken advocate for compassionate access to medical cannabis, he is one of six individuals and organizations who are currently suing the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule I drugs.
A Rebel Minded Society (A.R.M.S.), founded by Grizzly Bocourt, is a lifestyle brand known for curating events, producing content, as well as providing platforms that educate and equip millennials with tools to actualize positive change in their communities. A leader in the New York cannabis community, Grizzly is founder and Creative Director of Cannaware Society and head of NY Cannabis United, a coalition of advocacy groups.
The other half of the dynamic duo behind James Henry SF, John Alston is a U.S. Navy veteran and mechanical engineer transferring his previous operational skills and experience with atmospheric gases to the cannabis space. As co-founder and COO, he is innovating and setting new standards in the cannabis industry with products carefully curated from seed-to-sale and undergoing various checkpoints during the CO2 extraction and distillation processes.
Headquartered in Oregon, Elev8 Cannabis is a multi-state operator of cannabis dispensaries founded by Chicago-native, Seun Adedeji. Leading the industry in his commitment to service, inclusion, and social equity, Seun is the youngest Black man in the country running a cannabis dispensary, with licenses and plans to open additional stores in Massachusetts and Illinois.
Todd Hughes is an experienced project manager, engineer and entrepreneur who has consulted with over 100 companies since his business EntreVation was formed in 2015. A business incubator and accelerator, EntreVation provides project management services and human capital development for public and private sector clients, including a vertical specifically for cannabis. He recently became Chairman of the Board of Directors for Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA).
With over 20 years of experience in software development and consulting, Roger Obando is co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer for Baker Technologies, a leading CRM software platform for the cannabis industry, servicing more than 800 dispensaries across the US and Canada. In 2018, after one the largest cannabis tech acquisitions in the history of the industry, Roger successfully exited from Baker. He is the author of The Highest Common Denominator, available on Amazon.
Clinton Carter, Jr. is co-founder of Comfy Hemp, an e-commerce business offering hemp-derived, CBD-infused tinctures, salves and protein for multiple ailments. As a patient treating his seizures with cannabis, CJ is committed to providing full-spectrum CBD hemp extract through multiple consumption methods to accommodate and help consumers. He is the president of Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) Kentucky chapter.
Zachary Knox, Esq., a partner at Knox and Ross Law Group with extensive experience with in business law, tax and corporate finance, is Legal Counsel and a key team member at Make Green Go., the first consulting firm to be awarded a government contract to support social equity applicants. He is also the Vice Chair of the City of Oakland's Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
After experiencing an injury and subsequent opioid dependency, pro baller Mike James turned to cannabis and ultimately, became the first NFL player in league history to request an official "therapeutic use exemption" from the NFL's substance abuse policy. Mike has chosen to ignore the league's warnings and anti-cannabis education to remain a vocal advocate. He has been featured on CNN documentary series Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and works closely with various organizations to lobby on behalf of medical cannabis and access for professional athletes.
Buffalo-native and cannabis advocate, Reggie Keith is the founder and visionary behind Canna-House, Western New York's #1 platform for education and activity-based cannabis events. Reggie has built the Canna-House community on the foundation of inclusion, innovation and information, providing much-needed resources for individuals looking to get medical marijuana certification in the northeast. Working in partnership with WNY NORML, he recently worked to bring Netflix' Grass is Greener film screening to Buffalo.
Brandon Banks is co-founder and COO of Natural Selections Dispensary in Colorado. After years of working for several fortune 500 companies including McDonalds Co, JP Morgan Chase, and Philip Morris, Brandon moved to Colorado and transitioned to the medical marijuana industry. An award-winning master grower, Brandon recently joined the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) Board of Directors, serving as co-Chair of the Economic Empowerment Committee.
Nelson Guerrero is co-founder and Executive Director of the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA). Under his leadership, CCA has become one of the most influential advocacy groups in the industry, most notably one of six plaintiffs suing the Department of Justice and DEA for the removal of Cannabis from The Controlled Substances Act. A bilingual Ecuadorian-American, Nelson is also the Vice-Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Founding board member of Chicago NORML, Donte Townsend is the regional chapter's Communications Director, amplifying the chapter's efforts to specifically educate and motivate communities of color to de-stigmatize and accept the cannabis plant as a vehicle for health, wellness, political and economic empowerment. Donte is a leader in the industrial hemp industry, providing premium products grown and harvested in an Illinois-based facility with over 3 million square feet.
Morehouse graduate and commercial real estate expert, Kevin Ford is CEO of Uplift Maryland. Under his vision and leadership, Uplift strives seeks to End The Stigma associated with cannabis through education and training. The company works to increase diversity and inclusion within the emerging medical cannabis industry, ensuring Black and Hispanic communities have an opportunity to participate in the economy of the future. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Brian Williams is an engineer and full stack developer with significant early stage experience and operational knowledge. He is Managing Partner for Wayne & Reed, a startup consulting firm focused on B2B cannabis technologies. A former management consultant for Accenture now leading the way in "cannatech", Brian also previously worked as Chief Technology Officer for BDTNDR, a proprietary learning management system for cannabis retail employees or "budtenders". He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Howard University graduate, Rashaan Everett is the founder and CEO of Good Tree Technology, a vertically integrated cannabis brand with over 30,000 square feet of space throughout Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco. After generating more than 20,000 deliveries and over $1.5 million in revenue with Good Tree, Rashaan also established Growing Talent, a community-driven solution that provides aspiring minorities with capital and software training to operate Good Tree franchise dispensaries.
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65 Outstanding Black And Hispanic Men Leading In Cannabis - Benzinga