Cannabis & Black History: Celebrating Excellence in Cannabis

*Cover art by Jade Purple Brown.

Black History Month in February is a national month dedicated to honoring the Black community’s history, hardships, and empowerment. When it comes to the cannabis industry, it’s no secret the history of these two subjects is intricately connected.

Black History Month, and every month, is a reminder of the hurdles and challenges this specific marginalized community has faced – and the advancements we continue to make in the cannabis industry.

Honoring the Black history and cannabis is a chance to celebrate the embodiment and joy that comes with it – and the hard work and dedication it took to get here.

Hardships & History of the Black Community in Cannabis 

There’s no doubt the connection between cannabis history and Black history is strongly intertwined.

In 1619, hemp was such a major cash crop it was practically illegal not to grow. During that century, it was the enslaved Black community that worked to cultivate these crops in the field for white American colonists.

Fast forward to the early 1900s, “Reefer Madness” propaganda from the government spread around the country and depicted the plant and people who smoke causing ‘violent acts onto others.’

Keep in mind, a large portion of this group of smokers described during this time were Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

By 1971, the Nixon administration eradicated cannabis consumption and cultivation altogether. These years and actions that followed not only strengthened this negative stigma around cannabis but heavily incited violence and severe stereotypes about these impacted communities.

As we continue to advance and grow as a cannabis industry today, it’s important to understand this connection between the histories of the Black community and cannabis. The truth is, the cannabis industry that exists as we know it would not be possible without Black people in this country.

Celebrating Black History Month not only means recognizing the historical hardships that this country was founded on, but also continuing to celebrate and honor the fight for freedom, change, and equality in an empowering community and industry.

Diversity & Inclusion in Cannabis: Learning the Stats 

Considering the extensive history and impact cannabis has made in our communities, we’ve come a long way. However, the fight is long from over – as cannabis business leaders, industry workers, and passionate consumers, it’s our responsibility to hold each other and ourselves accountable for a more equitable industry.

No matter what month it is, many industries and corporations will claim diversity and inclusion in their work. Yet, there is no other industry where this representation and equity resonates more than cannabis.

Many legal cannabis states have put their own state social equity programs in place, outlining policies established to give back to affected communities within their state.

For instance, Massachusetts has a reputable social equity program in place that prioritizes business licenses for these communities affected by the war on drugs.

Despite the growing interest and urgency to create social equity programs and reform in cannabis, there is still a surprisingly low number of minority representatives in the industry.

According to the latest MJBiz Daily Report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry, there has been slow, stagnant growth in the percentage of women and non-white executives managing the cannabis industry.

  • In 2022, the number of racial minorities working in executive cannabis positions dropped from 13.1% to 12.1%.
  • On a national level, Black cannabis entrepreneurs account for less than 2% of the nation’s cannabis businesses.
  • On a larger scale, there are more than 2 million Black-owned businesses in various industries throughout the United States. Of that number, 35% of these businesses are women-owned.

As an industry profiting off of marginalized communities and their contributions, it is only right for us to honor and support Black-owned businesses during Black History Month – as both consumers and organizations with the power to create change.

In February, cannabis companies often take the opportunity to celebrate and recognize Black-owned brands and products in the industry. However, the support doesn’t stop here.

Diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry is an imperative step toward creating an equal and accessible opportunity for all – this means actively advocating education, awareness, and action for this cause and community.

Black-Owned Cannabis Brands in Massachusetts

Whether you’re contributing to a charitable cause or organization or showing support by purchasing local brands or products, there are plenty of ways to get involved and give back to your local community affected by the War on Drugs.

Check out some of our favorite Black-owned cannabis brands positively impacting our Black communities throughout Massachusetts.

6 Brick’s

Located in Springfield, MA, 6 Brick’s is a Black, local, and family-owned dispensary on a mission to inspire its community through people, the plant, and purpose.

Apex Noire

As Boston’s first full-service experiential cannabis retail location in New England, Apex Noire Founder and CEO Tito Jackson also served as the first elected official in MA to support adult-use cannabis.

Black Buddha Cannabis

As a new Black-owned, socially impact-driven brand, Black Buddha Cannabis is the brainchild behind Roz McCarthy, Founder and CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana.

Devine

With over 40 years of experience in nutrition, health, and wellness, Devine founders Heidi and Ari Zorn are dedicated to bringing their knowledge and passion for health and nature to the Berkshire, Massachusetts community.

Freshly Baked

Motivated by their experience with cannabis, the team of army veterans at Freshly Baked aspired to start a company that could help others who suffer from PTSD, while also contributing to the state’s social equity business model.

Harmony Cannabis Dispensary

Harmony Cannabis Dispensary, a West Boylston cannabis dispensary, prides itself on being part of giving back to the impacted communities from cannabis prohibition ever since its grand opening in 2022.

Highsman

As a brand created by the legendary running back Ricky Williams, Highsman is a cannabis brand based on authenticity to impact and elevate the surrounding community.

Kush Groove

As the forefront of cannabis culture for the greater Boston area, Kush Groove has cornered every angle in Massachusetts cannabis for over a decade, building a community of over 30,000 cannabis enthusiasts.

Legal Greens

Through diversity, quality, and engaging with the community, Legal Greens is a Brockton-based cannabis dispensary passionately committed to being a resource to rising entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.

LowKey Dispensary

This retail cannabis brand is planning to level up each community in MA by creating opportunities for the residents. LowKey’s goal is to work with the people in Dorchester, a neighboring community that has been disproportionately harmed by the past prohibition of cannabis, and ensure their inclusion in the legal cannabis industry.

Major Bloom

Major Bloom is a Worcester cannabis dispensary that appreciates and acknowledges the privilege of being able to legally participate in the cannabis industry, establishing programs and resources for the community impacted.

Pure Oasis

As Boston’s first Black-owned cannabis dispensary, Pure Oasis is committed to providing quality cannabis products, knowledgeable staff, and an overall user-friendly experience. Check out our social media strategy portfolio with Pure Oasis!

Rooted In

As a minority and locally owned cannabis business, Rooted In was established to generate profit and generational wealth for the Black communities in Boston. Funds from this cannabis business are channeled directly back into neighborhoods. Check out our branding portfolio with Rooted In!

The Heritage Club

As Boston’s mission-driven cannabis dispensary, The Heritage Club is here to steer the perspective and representation of the cannabis industry by changing the conversation, dispelling the myths, and removing the stigma around cannabis.

Western Front

Western Front, a Chelsea cannabis dispensary, offers give-back programs and donation opportunities to charities helping those communities affected by the cannabis prohibition.

Yamba Market

As a minority-owned and multicultural cannabis retail leader, Yamba Market’s mission is to participate authentically to build a socially restorative adult cannabis market in the Commonwealth. Yamba is committed to an inclusive and exemplary experience focused on a broad selection of cannabis products.

Growing Success for Black-Owned Businesses 

In addition to recognizing the history and hardships during Black History Month, it’s also a time to celebrate Black excellence!

Think of all the innovative ideas and change that has come from this society as the industry advances. Imagining what’s ahead, it is our responsibility as conscious consumers to take action in supporting and honoring the Black and cannabis community.

In fact, in a 2022 business report by Hello Alice and the NAACP, 34% of Black business owners in varying industries have seen a raise in their capital in just one year. They also predicted around 84% of company growth in the same year.

In 2022 alone, there were an estimated 140,918 Black businesses with $141.1 billion in annual receipts, 1.3 million employees, and about $42.2 billion in annual payroll.

In other words, supporting Black-owned businesses, no matter the industry, pays off for everyone. Communities, families, and individuals all have the opportunity to thrive when we put our money where our mouth is.

This Black History Month, we encourage you to find resources that help you stay educated about social equity opportunities from companies. Learn what assistance and support locals in your community need, and how you can help. Take action and hold brands accountable for diversity and inclusion in their workplace.