In the Weeds: Getting into the Florida Cannabis Industry

Cannabis

*Note: This article first appeared on Caribbeannationalweekly.com on March 5, 2019.

With cannabis legalization cruising beyond its tipping point and new legislation dropping almost daily throughout the U.S., Florida-based entrepreneurs are wondering how to enter the “cannabiz” on the ground floor.

What many of our readers want to know is will there be equal opportunities for people of color whose communities have previously been targeted for criminalization of the substance? And more importantly, how will these communities gain access to the financial and other resources necessary to compete in an industry where the substance is still considered illegal on a federal level?

“Since November of 2016, the voters in this state have spoken and medical marijuana is legal in Florida,” said Shaheewa Jarrett, founder of the Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce. “As this niche industry grows beyond a billion dollars in other states, our community cannot ignore or be left out of this trending new opportunity to start new businesses and create jobs in our community.”

To date, more than 30 states have legalized cannabis for medicinal use, and the substance is legal in 10 states for recreational. Thirteen states have decriminalized the substance, and cannabis was projected to have generated $250 million in revenues for the state of Florida.

This past week, Democratic Presidential candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation that would legalize cannabis on a federal level, which would open the doors to traditional funding for startups.

Equity and Opportunity for All

“It’s a heavy price tag to get involved, which is at this point is over $60,000 non-refundable to participate. We’d love to change that and make it accessible to more people,” said Scheril Murray Powell, Esq. Ms. Powell is a Jamaican-American attorney who’s been at the front lines of the fight for legalization in Florida and throughout the U.S. She is also an advocate working to create new opportunities for equity within the marketplace.

“We’d love to see more female involvement, more veteran owners involved. We’d love to see more people with disabilities and actual patients being able to participate in the space. And of course, we’d like to see some representation from ethnic minorities as well.”

Powell advocates for prospective cannapreneurs to do their due diligence about current opportunities in the market. She recommends the best place to start is to start by joining Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Both organizations provide information about local events and offer a supportive environment to learn and become active.

“I do encourage people to be patient. We have to celebrate that we have legalization in play so that patients can get access to their medicine. It takes baby steps that can be frustrating. But it is an exercise in patience. The advice that I give people is don’t worry if you don’t get moving as fast as you would like it to. There are markets that are still changing their laws and that can take many years. As far as building a team, it’s really important that you identify the right resources to get you where you need to go,” Powell added.

In the meantime, the Broward County Black Chamber of Commerce hosts informational seminars to assist local entrepreneurs in getting the process started.

“If we sit on the sidelines, we will be consumers only and have no ownership.  This is unacceptable.  We should have equity in this space.  The Chamber is actively educating the community because we have to get involved on the ground level before it is too expensive to enter the market,” added Ms. Jarrett.

Partying with a Purpose the New York Way

There are few things New Yorkers love more than a quality brunch experience where the weather is (still) gorgeous, the drinks are flowing, and the food is phenomenal. The New York Urban League’s recent Black and White Champagne Brunch brought home way more than just bubbles and a great time. The organization’s third annual event was also an excellent opportunity to meet and break bread with some of the city’s most progressive and visionary African Americans.

Held at the stunningly beautiful waterfront restaurant La Marina, the event honored Camille Joseph Goldman, vice president of State Government Affairs at Charter Communications. Event leadership included New York Urban League Board Chair Jeanine Conley and John Daves; Elsie McCabe Thompson and NYUL Board member Bill Thompson; and the afternoon’s honoree, Ms. Goldman and Jason Goldman.

First things first, let me get the most important question out of the way: The food was outstanding! Delectable fried chicken sandwiches and fresh fruit skewers paired with overflowing bubbly is exactly how you kick off a Saturday on the waterfront. I barely touched the buffet afterward, I was having such a blast!

Continue reading “Partying with a Purpose the New York Way”

Power Networking: When Arriving Early Brings About Powerful Benefits

Sometimes we find inspiration in the strangest, most unexpected places in life. Beethoven’s long, solitary walks in the forest were where some of his greatest musical masterpieces were composed in his mind. Frida Kahlo’s vivid expressions of her proud Mexican heritage, and its bold depictions of nature were inspired by time in her personal garden. While it’s wonderful to seek out an inspiring place for our own endeavors, it’s a little tough when you have eight million neighbors and live in a concrete jungle.

A little over a week ago, I attended a wellness retreat hosted by the women of Sisterhued at EVEN Hotels in Brooklyn. The event blessed me in many ways that day, but the most significant takeaway from that experience was what happened when this girl who is notorious for showing up on Caribbean time arrived early.

The Blessing Before the Breakdown

In the quiet moments before the event started, I had an opportunity to sit and chat with mindfulness expert Ananda Leeke and her niece. Always passionate about my journey with yoga, I shared with Ananda its influence on my life in the past year, spiritually and also physically. I’d adopted the practice on doctor’s recommendations to combat sudden chronic injuries, but the holistic benefits quickly eclipsed my physical transformation. Although it hadn’t been top of mind, I had forgotten that I started this process with a goal, and our conversation brought it all together.

With a laser-like clarity and accuracy, Ananda made an observation about where my practice was taking me. The feeling that came over me in the next few seconds? That is how you start off a wellness retreat: with intention. I’m still reflecting on that conversation days later and incorporating that intention into my work.

How Self-Care Makes for a Better Business Person

The entire day left me with a few observations about personal wellness and a few gems about one’s approach to business.

  • There is a great benefit to showing up early. Those quiet moments before an event begins are an excellent opportunity to network and connect at an unhurried pace. It also gives early bird attendees the time to find their groove and maybe even identify before the real fun begins.
  • Self-care is so important to the well-rounded entrepreneur. You can’t burn it at both ends to build and sustain a business while neglecting your physical, mental and spiritual health. Your focus suffers, you won’t be able to serve clients with your best creative fruits, and your productivity might hit its lowest levels without you really figuring out why.
  • Never underestimate the power of a good sister girlfriend to help you along the way. The most impactful part of the Sisterhued retreat wasn’t so much in what was said, but what wasn’t. Seeing these women share they ways in which they worked together as a team to manage multiple businesses while also maintaining busy households was the perfect prescription for attendees in the same boat. The message was clear: you can’t do it all alone, and even if you have one great friend, fellow entrepreneur and accountability partner, that little bit of support goes a long way.

It’s so easy to get caught up in deadlines and goals that we miss important opportunities to take care of ourselves as human beings. I look forward to seeing how the incorporation of these valuable lessons impacts me personally and professionally during these last few months of 2017.