Two celebrities aim to spearhead more diverse representation in the cannabis space. This week, rapper Method Mad and former NBA basketball player Al Harrington announced new programs that would usher more black ownership into the industry. These initiatives accompany the nationwide protests against systemic inequalities following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The civic demonstrations have shined a new spotlight on diversity access and opportunity in multiple business sectors, including cannabis.
“Personally, it is essential that we use our brand to help bring awareness to the social, systemic and economic injustice in communities that have struggled with oppressive mass incarceration and racially biased policing policies,” Method Man said in a statement.
Method Man launched a new social conscious cannabis brand called TICAL, which stands for “Taking Into Consideration All Lives.” It is also the name of Method Man’s 1994 debut album. TICAL sold product from its first three marijuana strains—“Gelato, “Cake,” and “Crusher”—to four black-owned dispensaries in California last weekend. Method Man, who owns a 20% stake in TICAL, will use the business to promote advocacy against racism in law enforcement and promote cannabis legalization.
Al Harrington, meanwhile, plans to make 100 black individuals into millionaires through the cannabis industry. Harrington, who is the CEO of Viola Brands, labeled it his mission and will launch an incubator program the helps transition black market marijuana business into legal, licensed ventures. Cannabis entrepreneurs say it’s “nearly impossible to get a license” in legal marijuana states, but black market products might have “million dollar valuations” if they received effective marketing and retail placement, Harrington said in an interview with CNBC.
“A lot of brands that are on the black market that has a lot of credibility and unbelievable following, have market share, but they just don’t know how to get into the legal market,” Harrington said.
Multiple state lawmakers have referenced legalization as a possible solution to boost local economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. That can’t happen, Harrington said, unless diversity program that lift up communities of color are included.
“That is something I will continue to harp on; continue to bring awareness to because once again, I feel like the war on drugs was aimed towards our community, and they used cannabis as pretty much the main drug to continue to lock us up,” Harrington said “All this money being made now, we’re not represented; we’re not there. I feel like we pioneered this industry.”
Diversity representation in the cannabis industry is far from ideal. A study released by Denver policymakers just last week showed about 75% of licensed dispensary owners in the city were white. Only 12% of business owners were Hispanic and 6% were Black or African American.
“This study sadly confirmed what was widely suspected,” executive director of Denver’s Excise and Licensing division Ashley Kilroy said in a statement. “Just like what has been seen across the state and in other legalized markets across the U.S., Denver does not have a diverse marijuana industry.”