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What Does Juneteenth Mean for Cannabis Equity?

Published on
June 18, 2021
A display of unity for Juneteenth.

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist and cannabis futurist, widely respected in both modern media and drug-policy circles. He was appointed The Denver Post’s first-ever cannabis editor in 2013 and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of the U.S. adult-use cannabis market and related issues around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers

Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency in 2016 to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, from cannabis and psychedelics to spirits and healthcare. In 2023, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed Ricardo to the state’s first-ever Natural Medicine Advisory Board to contribute to policy development around the state’s eventual psychedelics framework.

Named one of Fortune’s 7 Most Powerful People in America’s Marijuana Industry in 2016 and Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work. In addition to his previous journalistic coverage of drug policy, cannabis business and culture, Ricardo continues to host panel discussions at events nationwide and contribute columns for a number of top publications including Rolling Stone. He is also a sought-after thought leader in media, cultural events and podcasts, and has spoken on The Colbert Report, NPR’s All Things Considered, TEDxBoulder, TEDxMarin and multiple years at SXSW.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Vox, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.

Let’s Use This Juneteenth to Champion Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses

Juneteenth—now an official national holiday—commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day that the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas—the last state in the formerly Confederate South to announce the news. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved people in the Southern states, took effect on January 1, 1863, nearly two years before the news was formally announced in Texas. It’s important to acknowledge that lasting, systemic discrimination against Black Americans certainly did not end on that first Juneteenth, however. To this day, Black communities bear the burden of this shameful legacy of systemic, institutionalized racism.

As a cannabis-centric business, we’ve benefited from the regulated market. But centuries of systemic racism, the failed War on Drugs, exclusion and racist policing practices (among many, many other roadblocks) have made it difficult for Black Americans to benefit from the cannabis industry at the same rate as other groups.

Consider that, despite nearly identical consumption patterns, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as white Americans to be arrested on cannabis possession charges. Nearly half of all nonviolent drug arrests—most drug-related arrests fall into the category of “nonviolent”—are for cannabis, according to the ACLU. Meanwhile, this same “illicit” plant fuels thousands of businesses and has resulted in immense wealth for the industry’s business owners, cultivators, manufacturers and beyond.

Further, MJBiz Daily reports that a whopping 81 percent of cannabis businesses are white-owned, with only 4.3 percent under Black ownership.

Below, we’ll explore organizations giving voice and support to the vibrant Black-owned businesses already operating in the sector, as well as Black-owned cannabis businesses to support on Juneteenth and beyond.

Organizations That Offer Support, Funding and Opportunities to Black Entrepreneurs


C.E. Hutton

With 75 years of experience and expertise, C.E. Hutton has been serving the diverse populations of Denver since 2018, helping to develop businesses, big and small. Since its inception, the firm has been writing and publishing “The Minority Report,” an in-depth detail sheet of minority businesses statistics.

Black Cannabis Equity Initiative (BCEI)

Started in 2019, Denver’s Black Cannabis Equity Initiative (BCEI) is built around a community of Black citizens that are using community engagement and education to create a landscape of fairness and opportunity in cannabis.

NuLeaf Project

In 2018, husband and wife team Jeannette and Jesce Horton founded the NuLeaf Project to help build intergenerational wealth for communities in Portland, Oregon affected by cannabis criminalization through capital, knowledge and connections for marginalized, would-be business owners.

Minority Cannabis Business Association

Oregon-based nonprofit Minority Cannabis Business Association was created in 2015 to promote progress in cannabis. Through outreach, the MCBA ensures those most affected by the war on drugs in communities of color have equal access to powerful economic incentives and opportunities.


Black entrepreneur Mary Pryor started California’s Cannaclusive between 2015 and 2016 to help promote inclusivity for women of color in a predominantly white, male industry through a seemingly simple focus: creating diverse stock photos to normalize people of color.

Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses You Need to Know

From dispensaries to wholesale growers to celebrity brands, this list of Black-owned businesses represents some of the most successful, sought-after brands in the cannabis space.

Ball Family Farms

Former San Francisco 49’ers and Canadian Football League player Chris Ball started Ball Family Farms in 2015 as the first vertically integrated, Black-owned, Social Equity commercial cannabis facility in Los Angeles. The company is known for its premium flower, pre-roll and other products sold across Southern California and beyond.  

Simply Pure

As Denver’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary, Simply Pure has been bringing premium cannabis to Denver for years. Founded by partners Wanda James and Scott Durrah, the brand also launched one of the country’s first successful lines of cannabis edibles in 2010.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart is one of the first medical cannabis companies in the country, as well as one of the first Black-owned dispensaries of Oakland, California. It’s become a staple business for cannaseurs, veterans and wellness enthusiasts alike.


Dubbed the “Easy Bake Oven” of cannabis, Ardent lets consumers bake their own batch of homemade edibles through compact decarboxylation and infusion technology.


With a mission to sustainably farm and manufacture all-natural, CBD-based topical and makeup products for Black women, BROWN GIRL Jane has become one of the leading hemp cosmeceutical companies promoting diversity in the market.


This Juneteenth, we acknowledge the profound impact that centuries of systemic racism have had on Black communities, from slavery to Jim Crow to the failed War on Drugs and beyond. We’re proud to support the organizations and Black-owned businesses that make this cannabis community diverse and call on the industry to take every opportunity to elevate and celebrate these organizations while promoting diversity and inclusion everywhere possible.

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