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
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.
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.
A digital ecosystem for Black cannabis founders, the Community for Entrepreneurs Engaged in Development (CEED) offers master classes and other resources designed to set innovators up for success, and to plug them into networks from which members of traditionally marginalized communities have typically found accessible.
In 2018, husband and wife team Jeannette and Jesce Horton founded the NuProject to build generational wealth through the legal cannabis industry for Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/x communities that have faced significant harm from cannabis criminalization.
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-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.
40rty Tons was founded by two justice-involved individuals, Anthony Alegrete and Corvain Cooper, as well as Black female founder Loriel Alegrete. After Anthony and Corvain's legacy operation was shut down following their incarceration, the Alegretes and Cooper started over as part of California's legal cannabis market. Today, 40rty Tons is focused on both cannabis and restorative justice.
Dubbed the “Easy Bake Oven” of cannabis, Ardent lets consumers bake their own batch of homemade edibles through compact decarboxylation and infusion technology.
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.
A Black, female-founded cannabis brand, Biko was launched by social equity licensee Timeka Drew as "a vehicle for underrepresented excellence to thrive." She drew on her Nigerian heritage for inspiration, naming the company the Igbo word for "please,"
BROWN GIRL Jane
This award-winning maker of fragrances and CBD Gelees and tinctures made by and for Black women, BROWN GIRL Jane has become one of the leading Black, female-run wellness brands dedicated to community impact.
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.
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.
Founded in 2011, Viola is named for founder and CEO Al Harrington's grandmother, whose glaucoma inspired him to found a cannabis company that could offer relief to others. With a presence in eight states and Canada, Viola has grown to become a well-recognized choice for quality flower, pre-rolls and edibles.
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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.