There have been numerous articles written over the past year about the whiteness of the marijuana industry. Part of the problem is in how these legalization bills are being written. Many states deny access to people with a criminal record, even if they're out of prison and have done their time. At the same time some states require large amounts of cash on hand to be eligible. So the rules are being written to cut out certain groups of people. However I'm not too worried about this and chalk it up to part of the growing pains of an industry where most of the publicly-traded stocks of marijuana companies are still at the 'nano-cap' level. Meaning these are companies that are worth less than $5...most of them less than $1. I'm hopeful that with public pressure, when marijuana is legalized on a federal level certain exceptions may be made for those with criminal records (especially if that record was for simple possession or even selling). For those of us without a criminal record though, we should look into ways of profiting off of this baby industry which will one day grow into a behemoth that will usher in a new group of millionaires and billionaires.
I'm not going to focus much on the current problems of the marijuana industry in this blog entry. There are numerous well-written articles on that topic that you can find. This blog entry is about the Black community realizing the potential of not only marijuana but also hemp. Hemp legalization has been silently moving along under the radar and in some cases, ahead of marijuana legalization. For instance, North Carolina recently legalized the production and cultivation of industrial hemp in October of 2015. NC joins 25+ other states that have done the same with more likely to follow in the coming months and years. Hemp can be used to create over 25,000 different products and hemp farming as an industry is likely to explode along with marijuana. Here are 4 reasons why Blacks should jump into the marijuana industry as soon as possible.
1. Black People Have Been Hurt the Most from the War on Drugs. There is no community that has been hurt the most by the drug war than the Black community. Yes our South American and Caribbean brothers and sisters in America have been hurt by it too...especially in Mexico. However there is no other group in America that has had the same level of damage done to it by this war than the Black community. This reason alone makes it extremely problematic that Blacks would be shut out of the industry. This is why I don't expect federal legalization to look like state-wide legalization. This also means though that Blacks need to look for different ways to invest in the industry that doesn't involve simply owning a dispensary company. An entire prison industry has grown and developed around the mass incarceration of mostly Black people for committing non-violent drug offenses. The United States owes it to the communities that have been hurt the most by these policies to allow said communities the ability to participate in the legal industry itself. While on paper, there is no discrimination going on...one has to wonder who is being left out by the wording of these new laws. Let's not begin to talk about how the Drug War was started with the intention of assaulting the African-American community.
2. Marijuana Legalization as a Vehicle for Reparations? Ta-Nehesis Coates is one of my favorite intellectuals to read right now and has written a couple must-read articles about reparations. One can have a debate about how best to bring about reparations, but one definite way could be in the widening of a door that is only barely open to Black startups. There could be incentives formulated to help foster of growth of black-owned cannabis and hemp companies. These incentives could help spark "angel investing" and possibly venture capitol investing. Both forms of startup funding have their pros and cons but would be worth looking into if you're not fortunate enough to have the money out-of-pocket and can't (or don't want to) get a bank loan. On the topic of angel investing, it's important to note that you don't have to be a multi-millionaire to be a sole investor in a startup company. There are many non-millionaires who angel invest. Crowdfunding sites like IndieGogo and Kickstarter are forms of angel investing but it can also come in the form of a sole investor taking the risk of investing say $40,000 in your business. If/When Black businesses do begin to develop and expand, it's important that successful Black entrepreneurs invest in new ideas and new startups as long as you're making sure the person you're risking all of your money on is going to be thorough in running his/her company.
Another form of reparations via the marijuana industry could come in the form of land grants to Black entrepreneurs who need land for the growing of the marijuana or hemp plant. Land would also be needed for the processing and warehousing of these commodities. Perhaps a group of Black scientists came together to form a biotech company and needed land for research and development and the building of labs. There are numerous ways one could implement it. However one should not focus solely on the building of businesses either since there are also opportunities on the investing side purely. As I type this, the marijuana sector is rallying for a number of reasons such as good news and anticipation about the direction of the industry. 2016 is an election year and much like the rise the sector experienced when Colorado and Washington legalized, I believe many see 2016 as another big year for the green plant. One can only look at how cheap most marijuana stocks can be bought at and see the huge potential for gains. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of "pot stocks" are over-the-counter (aka Penny Stocks) and aren't traded on major exchanges. This has a lot to due with the legal state marijuana continues to exist in on a federal level and one cannot see a change to this unless the scheduling of marijuana is changed country-wide. This brings a level of risk to these stocks right now that could still not pan out. However IF the industry is allowed to grow and thrive and the federal government concedes to the wishes of a majority of the American people and the drug war is effectively ended, you're going to wish you hadn't have missed the marijuana investor boat.
3. The Market for Marijuana/Hemp is Still Not Fully Understood. It's Potential Is Thought to Be in the Tens of Billions. Perhaps even the hundreds of billions if you factor in biotech and bio-pharmaceutical companies designing drugs with cannabinoid compounds such as CBH, CBC, CBD, CBN and more. Arcview Market Research states that by 2020 legal market sales will grow to $21.8 billion. This is likely a very conservative estimate and it's unclear if this involves profits from industrial hemp cultivation with the myriad of applications there are with the hemp plant. One could easily foresee an industry generating well over $100 billion if legal in every state and with the advancing of biotech research to bring about novel medicinal applications never before seen.
There are some in the African-American community who I know see the value in marijuana and investing in it. Then there are those folks who, having been raised in the "tough on crime" era, will never be in a position to profit off of this due to outdated and largely propagandized views on the use of substances that altar your state of consciousness. I fear that because of this, many won't even attempt to profit from this industry and will cede billions to those who have not been hurt the most by drug policies. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good thing that White are involved in the industry...however we need to make sure there is balance too and Blacks consume marijuana just as much as Whites do. When we talk about the building of generational wealth, that involves setting very firm foundations in powerful investments that will be around for a very long time. For many people that involves owning businesses, real estate or stocks/bonds. You can't build generational wealth by simply saving your money or spending less than you earn. Generational wealth is built by that and by having your money work for you and generating passive income for you while you're out doing something else entirely. The marijuana industry presents the BEST opportunity for that than possibly any other young industry out there right now. With enough shares owned in the right company you'll have passive income potential that most people only dream of.
4. Marijuana Culture Has Been Fundamentally Influenced and Popularized by Blacks. Everything from reggae music to Hip-Hop, one cannot deny the impact that Black culture has had on the overall marijuana culture. Early marijuana use was also popularized by jazz singers and musicians back before prohibition really kicked in. This was actually used against the plant as racial propaganda and helped kickstart what would eventually become the drug war. Many people today like to play down the racist components of marijuana prohibition and instead focus on the economic reasons why marijuana was made illegal. Let's be clear, people weren't scared and probably didn't care about which business tycoon would lose out from legal marijuana and hemp. They were scared at the prospects of their White women having sex with Black men because they were high on marijuana listening to jazz music. With the popularization of marijuana from jazz music, there could also have been a fear of Blacks using the plant to generate a profit for themselves with businesses rivaling Whites. We already know that "race riots" ensued in the past in affluent, well-to-do Black towns that racist Whites felt threatened about with regards to Blacks gaining economic power in a capitalist society.
Then there's the influence that Reggae music has had on the popularization of marijuana culture to the point where many speak of the two interchangeably. While white hippies definitely took the the plant in the 1960's leading to a few years of experimentation, one can't debate the cultural impact of reggae and rap music. I'd say rap has been by far the biggest popularizer of the marijuana plant. There was a time when the biggest celebrities touting marijuana were all mostly rappers. Now due to legalization and decriminalization many are now coming in on the train seeking to profit from a sub-culture with origins that goes back decades largely with non-Whites. Like I said, people can start whatever businesses they want as long as it's legal. However much like how many have forgotten the Black roots of Jazz and rock and roll...one has to wonder if 40 years from now people will even acknowledge the role that Bob Marley, Snoop Dogg and Hip-Hop in general played in propagating marijuana culture in what may end up becoming a corporate white-washing and appropriation of prohibition history.