California became the first state in America to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996. Since then, a number of states have either legalized marijuana or are in the process of legalizing it.
Historically, the Black community has been at the brute end of the law in terms of arrest for marijuana possession and other narcotic offences. This has led to the incarceration of many Black men, leaving their children to grow without a father figure in their lives.
And so when California legalized marijuana cultivation for medicinal purposes, the expectation was that Blacks would be allowed to own dispensaries and trade marijuana within the confines of the law. But that was not the case, particularly in LA. According to the co-founder of the California Minority Alliance, of the 200 cannabis retailers previously approved in LA, only six were Black-owned or led by a Black person.
What this reveals is that the industry remains skewed against Blacks and they are limited in participating in the economic dividends of the marijuana industry. One entrepreneur in Central LA is seeking to change that by empowering black and brown entrepreneurs to participate in the marijuana economy. Karim Webb founded 4thMVMT to support minority entrepreneurs, including those in the cannabis space.
According to NBC, the empowerment include free business and management training, assistance with securing storefronts and licensing, and even investment. One of the beneficiaries of the program is Aja Allen, who now owns her own store called Sixty Four & Hope on La Cienega Boulevard and Gutherie Avenue in Central LA.
Without the support of social equity firm 4thMVMT, Allen said “There’s no way I would have been able to sustain rent on a 4,200-square-foot store for a year and a half on my own.”
Webb said he is inspired to do what he is doing because black and brown people are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted on cannabis charges than whites. His prime motive is to ensure that minorities also have access to license to operate cannabis dispensary in LA. “There is a way to be able to empower people who otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to compete at the highest level in this industry,” the entrepreneurial activist said.
Superstar rapper Jay-Z recently about the imbalances in the marijuana business where mostly black and other minority groups are disproportionately punished severely for illegal use of the drug.
The cannabis industry, according to Marijuana Business Factbook, is estimated to pump up to $130 billion on an annual basis into the U.S. economy by 2024. Marijuana Business Factbook estimates legal cannabis sales increasing from $38 billion-$46 billion in 2019 to $106 billion-$130 billion by 2024 – a 181% increase. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the $130 billion figure is similar to the 2019 gross domestic product of Nebraska’s $129 billion.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has said some 36 states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use. This has led to the creation of a massive industry for a drug that’s still illegal under federal law.
Webb, before joining the world of cannabis, was famous in the South Los Angeles community for his four Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, bringing new jobs to the community. “Educational attainment, household income and health problems in our communities aren’t getting better, they are getting worse,” he said in a 2019 interview. “In order to reverse that, we need something more. We need access to resources, to money. And cannabis licenses provide that access.”