What you do and and why?
I came here from Chicago in 2009 after doing exhaustive research on what state was going to be the first to legalize marijuana. I correctly picked Colorado from news reports and arrived here ahead of the pack. Once they did legalize, I was the first black person to open a medical marijuana office to service marijuana red cards. A few years later I began a dispensary and started the Super Bud Bowl.
How does cannabis impact our economy?
Medical and recreational marijuana has been a revenue juggernaut for Colorado. And at this point, we are a multi-billion dollar industry, driving school funding and infrastructure repairs of all kinds.
What are you doing to change the perception society has of cannabis?
Marijuana is a much safer alternative than alcohol for recreational substance usage. It’s been a struggle to get acceptance for recreational marijuana use on the same level as alcohol use, and that’s where the Super Bud Bowl events and Super Southern Colorado Bud Bowlers Association come in. Our mission is to normalize the perception of cannabis in our population. There are still a lot of professional and laypeople that hold on to the stigmas placed on marijuana in the ‘70s. People associate marijuana use with laziness and various behaviors of addicts. So it’s our job to change those perspectives. One of the things that the Super Bud Bowl events do is to create a record of events being held in the state that are safe, compliant events. This is the way to normalize our industry in the eyes of municipal governments and the citizenry.
Are there some unique challenges for African-Americans entering the cannabis industry?
Well, there are always unique challenges for black people because of our low net worth as compared to other ethnicities in the country. And so we don’t have the net worth to invest in businesses traditionally. We can’t get the kind of loans that are needed usually to start up a cannabis-based business. Also, we tend to be less interested in relocating despite economic opportunities available in different regions of the country. A lot of us are traditionally from the South and remain stuck in the South even though prospects are very bright elsewhere in the country. The industry is 95% white. But our presence is increasing in the field through jobs outside of ownership, such as budtenders, trimmers managers and positions like that. There’s been a steady increase in black participation in the industry, but not necessarily at the ownership level.
Do you have an opinion about the disproportionate amount of black people who are in jail today for something that is now legal?
Well, it’s just the way things are in America, where, ironically, a substance that has been the cause for arrest for mainly black people has now been made a legal sales opportunity for primarily white people. Municipalities and states are now looking at retroactive expungement for marijuana offenses, and so that’s something for which we want to keep the pressure on our lawmakers to make happen.
Can you see this industry benefiting the black community?
The legalization of cannabis is allowing an entirely new class, not race, but a class of people to become empowered and wealthy. This has never happened before in the recent history of the country. And so people who usually would have no route to excel beyond middle class can now open companies or work at companies that do allow them to become wealthy — that kind of mobility in the workforce in amazing. Black people need to broaden their horizons from their traditional occupations of barbers, nightclub owners, and restaurant owners to take advantage of new opportunities like this.