*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.