Despite Underrepresentation, Black Leaders Are Impacting Every Part Of Cannabis

The history of cannabis in the United States is marked by the exclusion and persecution of people of color, particularly Black Americans. Cannabis prohibition, along with institutional racism, have led to bar many Black people from entry into this multi-billion-dollar industry.

According to MJBizDaily, only 10% of cannabis business owners/founders identify as Hispanic/Latino or African-American. There is much to still be done, from prison reform to social equity, in order to achieve a more balanced representation. However, this is still a growing number of Black Americans who are making their mark at every layer of this dynamic industry – from operations to activism to research and more.

Troy Datcher

Troy Datcher has served as Chief Executive Officer of The Parent Company GRAMF since September 2021. Troy Datcher joined The Parent Company from Clorox Co. where he most recently served as senior vice president and chief customer officer responsible for the company’s worldwide sales organization. During his tenure, Datcher deployed global sales plans for over $6.7 billion in annual revenue across The Clorox Company’s vast portfolio of brands. Prior to his combined 20-year tenure at The Clorox Company, Datcher served as national sales account manager at The Procter & Gamble Company.

Dr. Chanda Macias

Dr. Chanda Macias is a trailblazer in the legal cannabis industry many times over. In 2015 she became the country’s first woman of color (WOC) medical cannabis operator as CEO of National Holistic™ Healing Center (NHHC) in Washington DC. A few years later, she became the first WOC MSO (multistate operator) in the United States as CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare in Louisiana.

At Ilera Holistic, Dr. Macias maintains a unique strategic partnership with Southern University, one of only two cannabis license holders authorized to provide medical cannabis statewide. In 2020, this partnership made history twice when Southern became the first HBCU in the country to launch hemp-based and cannabis-based THC products.

As the Chairwoman of the Board of Managers and CEO for Women Grow, the global leader in connecting, educating, inspiring, and empowering the next generation of women leaders in the cannabis and hemp Industry, she leads the organization’s mission to educate women entrepreneurs and patients.  

Dr. Macias is also the co-Vice Chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR) Board, dedicated to promoting common sense federal legislation, tax equity, and financial services reform.  She serves as an advisory council member on Benzinga Cannabis and Marijuana Business Daily, and has previously served on the Board of Directors for the Minority Cannabis Business Association, focusing on business development for communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. In her local markets, she proactively engages in legislation, regulations, and compliance, and is a proud member of Americans for Safe Access. 

Al Harrington

Al Harrington is the CEO and founder of the premium cannabis company, Viola Inc., inspired and named in honor of his grandmother, Viola Harrington. After seeing how cannabis helped Viola, who suffers from glaucoma and diabetes, and dealing with his own health issues as a result of botched knee surgeries, Al worked with a team of industry leaders to create his vision of a cannabis brand with a purpose. Viola now operates in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington.

Al’s entrepreneurial endeavors began during his NBA career when he strategically invested in startups across the cannabis industry. Then, in 2011 he brought Viola to market after overseeing the carefully curated cultivation, extraction, and production processes. With the mission to provide equitable opportunities and ownership for the Black community at the heart of the brand, Al uses his platform to advocate for the advancement and betterment of Black men and women everywhere.

Mr. Harrington co-founded Viola and rePLAY and is currently an active member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), the Cannabis Trade Federation, and Tidal Royalty’s Advisory Board. At the age of 18, Al was selected in the NBA draft and played 16 seasons in the league for teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, and others.

Dr. Oludare “Dare” Odumosu is the Chief Executive Officer of Zelira Therapeutics (ZLDZLDAF, the leading global therapeutic medical cannabis company with access to the world’s largest and fastest growing cannabis and hemp markets.

Dare plays a pivotal role in the development of Zelira products and formulations – both cannabis-based and over-the-counter brands – and bringing those brands to US and global markets.  These include the Zenivol™ formulation for insomnia, the first and only clinically-validated cannabis-derived insomnia medication; and the HOPE™ line of cannabis-based treatments for the symptoms of autism.

With an eye towards the global OTC market, Dare created Zelira subsidiaries for hemp-based oral care and skin care, and co-created the proprietary CBD formulas for its debut product launches (SprinJeneCBD and RAF Five, respectively).

Dr. Odumosu earned his PhD in Biochemistry and a Master’s in Public Health-Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and School of Public Health in Loma Linda, California, respectively, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Odumosu is also a notable World Bank Institute Certified public health professional with global healthcare translational/clinical/epidemiological research and data management expertise.

Wanda James

Wanda James is one of the most widely respected leaders in cannabis today. As a Black woman, a veteran and a former Fortune 100 executive, she has spent the past decade working to remove the stigma of the plant and shedding light on the racial inequities of the cannabis industry.

Wanda is the founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver. Along with her husband Scott Durrah, they became the first African Americans, legally licensed in America, to own a dispensary, a cultivation facility and an edible company.

A decade after the first move to legalize cannabis, Wanda is unapologetically critical of the industry that remains 97% white owned.

Bernard Noble

Bernard Noble is a national symbol of harsh drug laws after he was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for carrying about two joints of marijuana. Noble, was freed on parole after his lawyer and a team of advocates. He ultimately served seven years in prison. Recently, Noble joined forces with Fab 5 Freddy and Co-Founded BNoble Brands (where Curaleaf is also a partner) and was part of his production of the Netflix Documentary Grass is Greener. His advocacy is now key to reform cannabis laws.

Gia Morón

 

Gia Morón is President of Women Grow. She began working with the company in January 2017 as Director of Communications, after transitioning from the Women Grow New York City market in 2016. Under her leadership, the company has formed partnerships with companies such as Curaleaf, Weedmaps, Etain, Green Flower, and more. In 2019, Gia partnered Women Grow with Emmanuel Baptist Church in New York, the first faith-based organization to host the "Business of Cannabis Summit" in the world. Furthermore, she is expanding its partnerships to higher education institutions.

With over 25 years of experience in public relations, on April 20, 2012, Gia launched her firm GVM Communications, Inc., a public relations, brand strategy, and business development firm. She and her team serve a client base that ranges from small to large-sized businesses, non-profits, entrepreneurs, authors, and more.

Prior to launching her firm and working with Women Grow, she was a Media Relations Officer in the Corporate Communications department for fifteen years at the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. While at Goldman Sachs, Gia oversaw various business areas from Private Equity, Urban Investment, Investment Research, and Technology to the firm’s organizational focus on Corporate Engagement, Diversity, Recruiting, Human Resources, and Corporate Services. Before joining Goldman Sachs, Gia was Director of Promotions and Publicity for six years at The Fremantle Corporation, a television distribution, and production company.

Outside of her professional accomplishments, Gia continuously works with a number of non-profit organizations. She sits on the board of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Advisory Board Member for the National Cannabis Roundtable, Advisory Board Member for the Cannabis World Congress Business Expo (CWCBE), as well as mentors up-and-coming women in the cannabis industry across the country. She currently resides in her hometown of Brooklyn, NY.

Roz McCarthy

Roz serves as the Founder/CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Inc. (M4MM). M4MM is the largest 501c3 community-based organization serving individuals and BIPOC communities with over 10,000 hours of outreach, training, education, and resources. In her role as CEO she has

been responsible for all internal strategic decisions, day-to-day operations, education and training, and overall organizational capacity building and growth.

Recently, she was involved in a car collision where she suffered a traumatic brain injury and it was during this time of healing she realized the true power of the plant. Cannabis literally saved her life. She reclaimed her life back through the use of Cannabis and CBD combined with daily mantras, meditation, and therapy, Her brand Black Buddha Cannabis was created as a testament to her healing. The branded products she will create and introduce to consumers

will focus on wellness and healing.

Khadijah Tribble

Khadijah Tribble is an activist and policy strategist on a mission to do good. Khadijah received her MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2018, currently serving as Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Curaleaf CURLF. Upon her graduation, she successfully launched the Marijuana Policy Trust, a social enterprise partnering with government and the cannabis community establishing a regulatory framework that works for all stakeholders. Applying a social justice and equity lens, Khadijah utilizes over 15 years of consulting experience to assist government officials in regulating a new cannabis marketplace.

No stranger to complex problems, Khadijah has lent her expertise and talents as board advisor to numerous worthy organizations including her current role as board member for New Profit’s Hero awardee, Changing Perceptions, an organization leading the charge in offering ex-offenders a way out of recidivism and path to entrepreneurship. Most recently she served as strategic chair for United Medical Center Hospital and founding board member of the Community Wellness Collective. As a Cheng Fellow, Khadijah worked with local and state government officials in Massachusetts providing policy briefings and recommendations for establishing the state’s regulatory framework for cannabis. Dividing her time between Washington, DC, Boston and Oakland Khadijah continues to refine the cannabis equity in regulation toolkit (CERT) which she developed during her Cheng Fellowship.

Mary Pryor

Amongst her colleagues Mary Pryor is known for being a trendsetting, innovative, passionate and strategic problem solver. Mary has always been ahead of the curve due to being immersed in automotive design, electrical engineering, music, digital arts, and marketing while being raised in Detroit, Michigan. She is a bicoastal media consultant with an impressive roster of employers and clients. 

Mary has worked for major brands across the music, media, technology, and marketing industries including Sony Music Group, Viacom, Attention PR, City Parks Foundation, Mirrorball, Black Enterprise, CBS News, Ebony Magazine, Rolling Stone, VaynerMedia, Mindshare, McCann XBC & McCann Health, and McGarryBowen. Having realized there was a pressing need for agencies that catered to culturally rich and niche audiences through digital and social marketing integration, Mary founded her own firms, WeFancy (consulting) and UrbanSocialista (digital marketing consulting). 

In 2017, she co-founded this cannabis awareness collective, Cannaclusive. Together their team aims to facilitate fair representation of diverse cannabis consumers ensuring that minority consumers are not an afterthought, but a valued ally in the fight for legalization and destigmatization. Featured speaker, Mary Pryor is a passionate and vocal digital marketing leader currently based in LA and NYC . A Detroit native, she realizes that there is a pressing need for agencies that cater to culturally rich and niche audiences through digital and social marketing integration.

Fab 5 Freddy

In his directorial debut, hip hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy presents an unparalleled look at the racially biased history of the war on marijuana. A range of celebrities and experts discuss the plant’s influence on music and popular culture, and the devastating impact its criminalization has had on Black and Latino communities. As more and more states join the push to legalize marijuana, this documentary dives deep into the glaring racial disparities in the growing cannabis market.

In 2021, Fab and Bernard Noble was stopped by an officer while riding his bicycle. He was frisked, arrested for possession of 2 joints worth of cannabis flower, and sentenced to 13 years of hard labor. In 2017, Bernard’s case began to draw attention on social media. It quickly became a national symbol for the need to reform our country’s harsh drug laws, sparking advocacy and movement. As a result, Bernard was released “just” seven years into his sentence.

He didn’t deserve to serve one single day. Meeting Bernard Noble is an illuminating experience. A joyous distillation of strength, endeavor and grace. And so it became our mission to build a community upon those extraordinary pillars.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for non-violent cannabis crimes. B NOBLE is here to help liberate them. 10% of proceeds from every B NOBLE cannabis sale will go toward cannabis justice and reform.

Whitney Beatty

Whitney Beatty is the Founder and CEO of Josephine and Billie’s retail cannabis operation in Los Angeles, as well as the Founder and CEO of Apothecarry Brands, Inc. Apothecarry Brands  is a purveyor of luxury herb accouterments for the connoisseur. The company was selected for the first cohort of Canopy San Diego cannabis business accelerator, won the ArcView Groups 2017 Los Angeles pitch prize and was selected at the Fall 2017 Pipeline LA portfolio company. Apothecarry closed her seed round in 2017 and is currently seeing 100% YoY growth.

Her background is in developing and producing non-fiction content (doc-reality, documentary, workplace based, dating, competition formats, crime and justice, branded), syndication (relationship, talk, game, court, late night), scripted and documentary programming. She's also worked in the digital space, developing content to launch consumer brands and oversee app development. Beatty has developed shows for FOX, BET, Sony, Discovery and CMT amongst others, and received a DGA award for directing. 

Toi Hutchinson

 

Toi Hutchinson is a former Senator in the Illinois General Assembly, having represented the 40th District, and now she is the new CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and a law degree from Northern Illinois University in 2014. Hutchinson has been involved with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government executive management program, was a 2012 Edgar Fellow at the University of Illinois, and is the former chair of the Senate Revenue Committee.

Amber Senter

Amber Senter has over twenty years of marketing and project management experience. She is the founder and CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company. She heads fundraising, supply chain management, government relations, strategy, product development and marketing.

Senter is also co-founder, Chair of the Board, and Executive Director of Supernova Women. Formed in 2015, the organization is dedicated to empowering people of color to become self-sufficient cannabis industry shareholders. Senter is a US Coast Guard Veteran and have held many leadership roles in the cannabis industry.

As the former Chief Operations Officer (COO) of an Oakland dispensary, her primary responsibility was to create and implement procedures to improve sales and increase profitability. While at the dispensary she obtained Oakland’s first onsite consumption permit. Her voice is trusted in the growing cannabis industry, as is her unsurpassed knowledge of the end medical and adult-use base. Senter is also a sought after coach and mentor, and a role model for new cannabis business entrepreneurs.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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