Several states across America have legalized marijuana cultivation and use for recreational as well as medicinal purposes. Despite the liberalization of the industry, it is still dominated by Whites with Blacks participating little in the marijuana economy.
In cases where Blacks participate, they are mostly men. This means that Black women are still underrepresented in the marijuana economy. Nonetheless, some Black women-owned cannabis firms are not only making waves but are breaking barriers for others to follow.
Below are five cannabis companies owned by women of color in America.
Simply Pure was founded by Wanda James along with her husband Scott Durrah. They are reportedly the first African Americans, legally licensed in America, to own a dispensary, a cultivation facility, and an edible company. Due to Wanda’s work on cannabis reform, she was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times magazine in 2018. Also, she was named in 2016 as one of the Cannabis Business Executive (CBE) 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry. Her advocacy for marijuana reform started when her brother was arrested and charged with a felony for marijuana possession while a teenager.
Janice Knox founded American Cannabinoid Clinics with her husband and children after working in medicine for 35 years as an anesthesiologist. She veered into medical marijuana in 2012 and carried her family along with her. Interestingly, her husband and two children are all medical doctors.
Knox is one of 15 children and grew up in San Francisco Bay. She later went north for medical education in the 1970s. “There were not very many black women or men, at least not at the University of Washington,” she told Washington Post. “It felt like a cultural shock when I went there.”
Cali Premium Produce was founded by L.A. entrepreneur Priscilla Vilchis. She became the first minority woman to be awarded two licenses in the state of Nevada to own and produce cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Vilchis started small and has now gone nationwide, producing $6 million cultivation as well as a laboratory in Las Vegas. Vilchis said she got involved in cannabis production because it has a wide range of therapeutic potential. “I believe that the use of medical cannabis will result in savings to health insurance systems. This is what brought me to the cannabis industry initially, and it is my goal to use my experience in the healthcare industry to generate reimbursements for medical cannabis,” she told Cannabis Science Tech.
Mary and Main, a cannabis dispensary located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, was founded by Maryland native Hope Wiseman. At the age of 29, founding Mary and Main makes her the youngest Black woman to own a marijuana dispensary in the U.S. “It’s hard to get into the industry no matter who you are. Being a Black person and being a young woman only exacerbates the challenges,” Wiseman told CBSNEWS. “I am constantly being looked at as not as qualified. I think a lot of Black people already have that image in business, and then you add on being a woman. A lot of men have a hard time taking direction from a woman or looking at them as equal. Then add on that I’m 20 years younger than a lot of my counterparts — people have a hard time taking me seriously.”
Royal Highness is co-owned by two sisters, Keyva and Kiyah King, and an interior designer. The brand claims to bring customers the very best products and accessories for their cannabis lifestyle.
“Featuring an exclusive collection of established and emerging brands, our selection is carefully curated by our merchandising team to include highly differentiated and distinctive luxury products,” Royal Highness says on its website. “In addition to being Palm Desert’s best cannabis shop, we offer distinctive luxury merchandise including couture and designer apparel, precious and designer jewelry, and fine homewares and gifts.”