Conceiving, growing, and operating a successful cannabis operation is no small feat, even for the most passionate and entrepreneurial in spirit. Destigmatizing cannabis and creating a viable industry has been an uphill battle around the globe. And many hemp-loving comrades have fallen to the war on drugs, politically charged propaganda, and disparate sentencing toward people of color.
As the many cultivars of Cannabis sativa L. slowly emerge from stigma to normalization, we want to celebrate the resilience and ingenuity of Black cannabis entrepreneurs. They have, against the odds, turned their experiences and hardships into stories of empowerment, perseverance, and industry success. The individuals we highlight below are not only successful cannabis business owners but are also laying the groundwork for a more inclusive cannabis industry.
Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses
After decades of sacrifice and tireless tenacity within the cannabis community, the narrative surrounding the once-taboo plant is finally changing. Among the victories that carry us forward one step at a time, we’re excited to witness the rise of black-owned cannabis businesses that are helping pave the way.
Although few in number, the significance of these businesses outshines mere commercial success. Each minority-operated cannabis operation is a beacon of hope to people of color and their families who have suffered racial injustices rooted in historical and political dogma. Some Black cannapreneurs are using their influence as sports figures, musicians, and talk-show hosts to break through industry barriers (such as a lack of capital.)
Let’s give a shout-out to a few of our fellow cultivators, chefs, and cannabis advocates.
AI Harrington – Viola
Founded by the former NBA player, Viola stands out as a company with a strong emphasis on social equity. Harrington has expanded his footprint across several states, contributing not just to the economy but also to communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs.
Harrington’s Viola brand launched in Colorado and then expanded across the United States. There are Viola locations coast to coast from California to Maryland.
Fun Fact: The company, Viola, was named after Al Harrington’s grandmother, who suffered from glaucoma and who found comfort in treating her pain with medicinal cannabis.
Ariane Kirkpatrick – Harvest of Ohio
From Omega’s home state of Ohio, we’re proud to have a cannabis-industry powerhouse right in our front yard. Ariane brought her aptitude for business into the cannabis industry in 2017 after meeting Steve White—CEO of a medicinal-only cannabis operation called Harvest Health and Recreation, Inc.
On April 13th, 2022, she became CEO and the majority owner of the vertically integrated company, Harvest of Ohio. They express their values as,
We strive to live by our core values of Accountability, Dedication, Genuineness, and Impact. We use these values as our guide for the key business decisions we make and the relationships we build with other businesses, local communities, and the charities we support.”(2024, February 7th) ‘Our Values’ https://www.harvestofoh.com/about-us/
Fun Fact: Ariane is the first woman of color to own a vertically integrated cannabis business in Ohio. (Licensed in cultivation and retail.)
Timeka Drew – Biko
As the founder and CEO of Biko, Timeka Drew supervises the manufacturing of high-quality, medical cannabis products. The family-owned company focuses on bringing medical patients cannabis-based therapeutic options.
On Biko’s website, Timeka Drew humbly states, “I feel it is a great honor and a privilege to take up space in this industry as a black woman – I walk in the footsteps of many amazing and resilient black women entrepreneurs before me.”
Fun Fact: Timeka Drew is a medical cannabis patient herself and attributes the plant’s healing abilities to saving her life.
Beyond Growing Success
Each of these businesses mirrors a collective potential and broader shift towards inclusivity within the cannabis sector. Their successes are not merely individual triumphs but are critical chapters in the overarching narrative of black economic empowerment and industry leadership. As we share in their victories, we also gain momentum in our quest for a more equitable and profitable cannabis industry.
Unification Through a Love of Cannabis
It can be disheartening that a plant used around the world to heal our bodies, bring joy to festivals and spiritual rituals, and even help to bridge continents by being woven into sea-worthy rope for tall ships, was weaponized in the 1900s to exacerbate corrupt politics, racism, and judicial inequality. A plant once used to unite humanity medicinally and recreationally was used to drive a wedge between us.
Thanks to the unflinching determination of Black entrepreneurs, industry innovators, and the cannabis community as a whole, struggles are being transformed into stepping stones. They forge paths not just for themselves and their families but for future minorities looking to apply their cultivation, manufacturing, and culinary talents to the expanding cannabis industry.