It’s no surprise that Black folks have been severely underrepresented in the growing cannabis industry. That’s not to imply, however, that we’re completely absent as our presence is steadily growing in areas that perhaps aren’t as visible.
Both celebrities and individuals with a keen eye for trends and an entrepreneurial spirit have hopped on the ganja bandwagon and are becoming major players in the cannabis industry. Cannabis hubs such as Oakland and Colorado are now fast becoming the places where influential African-Americans can become leaders in an industry that denies many of their peers entry.
KushCA presents a list of influential African-Americans changing the face (and culture) of the cannabis movement. Some names might not surprise you and some you’ve probably never heard of (but soon will!)
Whoopi Goldberg, Whoopi & Maya
It wasn’t that long ago that Whoopi was dressed up as a nun conducting a church choir or giving us memorable one-liners in the movie The Color Purple. But Ms. Goldberg is doing different things these days, such as releasing her own line of cannabis products aimed at relieving the pain and discomfort from menstrual cramps. She credits her friends and family as the ones who brought the beloved herb into her life.
Corey Barnette, District Growers
Having worked in the non-profit and education field for the majority of my adult life I found District Growers the kind of institution I could see myself getting behind. Barnette himself is a registered medical marijuana cultivator in Washington D.C. Not only does the company he helped establish sell marijuana and edibles, they offer a junior gardener training program.
Dan Pettigrew, Viola Extracts
Marijuana extraction is not new, but its recent run as a hot commodity is. If, like me, you’ve thought “someone really needs to commercialize and commoditize concentrates” Dan Pettigrew (and a slew of other folks) have already got your number. Dan Pettigrew is the owner of Denver-based Viola Extracts. The company specializes in BHO (Butane Hash Oil) and they provide products including shatter and wax to dispensaries around the area.
Chef Miguel Trinidad, 99th Floor
Chef Miguel, as we used to say when I was a youngster, is on some next shit. And by that I mean he’s taking cannabis to a whole new level–the 99th floor. Founded by Trinidad and his partner Doug Cohen (of Stadium Status Group), 99th Floor holds private multi-course dining events designed for gastronomers with experienced palates. And by that I mean people who like to get ridiculously stoned off the canna-oils and butter Trinidad infuses into his already exquisite recipes. In fact, 99th Floor also has a line of edible candies available at select California dispensaries.
Wanda James & Scott Durrah, Simply Pure Cooking
Having served on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, James is no stranger to pot politics. In fact before starting Simply Pure Cooking with her husband Scott Durah they owned a 10,000 square foot grow room and dispensary called Apothecary. Simply Pure is a medical and recreational marijuana dispensary that also features a variety of edibles such as jams and jellies. Similarly to District Growers, Simply Pure has it own cooking school (aptly named Simply Pure School of Gourmet Cooking) which teaches chefs how to properly cook with cannabis.
Charlo Greene, The Charlo Greene Show
Do you remember that infamous newscaster who quit her job on-air to fulfill her dream of owning her own marijuana operation? Well, she made it happen. Let that be a lesson to you BTW. If she can tell the nation how she felt with a few choice words, you can certainly do the same (however you see fit).
Greene is currently busy branding her image and doing something that hasn’t quite been successful for others yet (at least in the mainstream), and that’s creating and hosting a cannabis-themed talk show. The Charlo Greene show hopes to fill this gap. Additionally, through her charitable efforts, Greene has already raised $11,000 through an indigogo campaign for marijuana reform.
Sunshine Lencho, Supernova Woman
Sunshine Lencho is the woman dispensaries and other cannabis companies come running too when the feds come a knocking. Her being an attorney that offers legal services to cannabis businesses has something to do with this.
Lencho is also Co-founder of Supernova Women, an organization that offers networking for women of color interested in entering the cannabis industry.
Amber Senter, Magnolia Wellness
Magnolia Wellness is arguably one of the largest and most prolific dispensaries in the nation. That it has an African-American woman as its COO (Chief Operating Officer) is HUGE. Senter has been deeply involved in the cannabis industry for 7 years in areas such as branding and marketing. Not only does she hold such a deeply influential position at Magnolia, but she’s also the co-founder of Supernova Women.
Oren Lomena, The Graux
Lomena (who incidentally is the brother to MSNBC correspondent Joy-Ann Reid), started a talk show for the sole purpose of normalizing conversations surrounding cannabis. Although cannabis is not the only subject matter the show covers (Lomena also delves into such topics as sports and cooking), it is definitely a focal point.
Lomena began The Graux after his gig as co-host for an internet sports show sponsored by The Denver Post newspaper abruptly ended in January. It was then he began realizing how much money from the cannabis industry was going unclaimed due to federal regulation. “Due to FCC regulation [marijuana businesses] can only advertise in print; not on television or radio and the social media companies won’t touch it. That means the internet is wide open,” he says.
Charles and Khadija Adams, Marijuana Investment and Private Retreat
Investing can be risky business. Investing in marijuana can be downright dangerous if you don’t know what to look for. But if you are going to do it, you might as well do it with a little knowledge in your pocket and you definitely should start looking at companies in such states as Colorado.
Adams are both investors who say their portfolio has grown to 1.5 million shares since they relocated to Colorado a year ago in pursuit of the cannabis industry. Not only that, Khadija Adams decided to share her knowledge by way of a Marijuana Investment and Private Retreat (MIPR) she created with a friend. It is with this retreat Adams hopes that the average stock broker (as well as the average person) can take a closer looking at the growing options of marijuana stocks.
Ghostface Killah, Woo Goo
I’m not surprised that a member of the Wu-Tang clan decided to start their own line of concentrates, I’m just surprised it’s Ghost (no fret, Method Man and Redman are reportedly backing a weed discovery app set to launch this year).
Ghostface recently teamed up with vape pen maker Dr. Zodiak’s Dynamite Stix to develop the Woo Goo, which apparently is so good that “one hit is enough.” According to the rapper, they had help from a “master scientist… he really does his thing in oils. A real scientist, no bullshit.”
Duncan Cameron, Good Chemistry Dispensary
Camerons presence in the cannabis industry may not be as high-profile as others on this list, but his is perhaps one of the most influential, You see, without Cameron, the pot dispensaries need to distribute wouldn’t even exist.
Driven by his love of horticulture, Cameron first started off as a gardener at Good Dispensary’s 10,000-square-foot grow facility in 2009.
Now he’s chief production officer for the dispensary and oversees the plants throughout their life cycle until harvested and prepped for sale in the dispensary. Without his expertise there simply would be nothing worthwhile to sell.
“I was always that kid who always had a garden,” he says. “My grandfather had a farm and my mom was always an avid gardener.”
Snoop Dogg, MerryJane & Leaf
You often have those “wow, I didn’t know such and such” moments when reading top lists of something, like when you stumble upon a top ten list of Rastafarian amputees who have their own line of running shoes. Sometimes, when something is really obvious, or you’ve heard about an interesting “fact” a thousand times you have the opposite reaction (I call them “Duh” moments).
Snoop has his own line of marijuana, is part investor in the weed delivery company Eaze and is the owner of the new cannabis site MerryJane. Now repeat after me….DUUUUHHHH, of course he is.
Wiz Khalifa, Khalifa Kush
Wiz hasn’t officially branded anything, but he is boys with Berner from the Bay Area. And Berner created the Girl Scout Cookie Strain and is Latino, so close enough. But rumor has it the Taylor Gang Icon is producing a new strain of Sensi with help from Colorado’s River Rock Cannabis called K
Sarita Wright, Safon Floyd and Kali Wilder, EstroHaze
Kudos to Sarita Wright for initially creating this list of influential African-Americans for Black Enterprise magazine. She, Floyd and Wright are the brains behind EstroHaze, a weekly cannabis culture show for female cannabis enthusiasts. It’s high time Black women get the recognition (and acknowledgment) they deserve as they continue to blaze trails in this field.
Hi, my name is Petey Wheatstraw. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1996.