This Black History Month, BIPOCANN is bringing attention to eight Black-owned cannabis businesses that offer services that support the growth of the industry.
While the contributions of BIPOC and historically racialized and underrepresented people and businesses must be celebrated year-round, Black History Month provides a space for celebration of achievements by Black people and a time for recognizing their central role in shaping history.
With the spread of cannabis legalization across North America came significant oversight of Black communities that have been historically racialized, disproportionately criminalized, and underrepresented in the industry’s composition. Black business ownership in cannabis is shockingly low as a result of the policies enacted under the long War on Drugs.
The Lingering Effects of the War on Drugs
Within the long and racialized history of the War on Drugs, policies became attacks on Black people, starting with Henry Anslinger of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics unjustly and wrongfully equating cannabis use to jazz music and Black culture as the culprits of some of society’s problems. This asinine view planted the seeds for laws and government-sponsored programs to advance the War on Drugs spanning over several presidencies, that would further criminalize Black people for cannabis.
The ACLU reported in 2020 that between 2010 and 2018, six million Black people were arrested for cannabis in America. On average, and to this day, a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than a white person, even though Black and white people use cannabis at similar rates. Criminalization and criminal records become a direct barrier to obtaining a cannabis license, with recent estimates pinning Black ownership in cannabis businesses at around 4% of the entire industry.
Canada, where cannabis is federally legal is no different, as the racialization of Black people is a common characteristic across the Americas. The country went through its own War on Drugs that resulted in a persisting disproportionate criminalization of Black people, resulting in only 1% of leadership positions in cannabis in Canada being held by those who identify as Black.
Celebrating Black-Owned Cannabis Business Service Providers
The mission of BIPOCANN is to increase BIPOC visibility to advance representation and economic growth in the legal cannabis industry of the Americas, which encompasses both plant-touching and ancillary services. For Black History Month, we’re highlighting eight Black-owned ancillary cannabis businesses within the BIPOCANN membership to support, recognizing that supporting Black-owned businesses goes beyond just cannabis and into the services and structures designed to support the advancement of the plant and industry.
1. Winston Engineering
Where They Operate: Wildomar, California, providing services across the United States and Canada
What They Do: Winston Engineering Inc is a Black-owned firm that was founded in 2015 by Anthony Winston, P.Eng. They started providing MEP Engineering construction permit plans for the cannabis industry in 2017. To date, Winston Engineering Inc has provided Mechanical (HVAC), Electric & Plumbing Engineering plans for well over 20 cannabis facilities across the United States. These facilities encompass indoor cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, retail and distribution. Winston Engineering Inc also provides solar, battery backup, generator and Fire Protection design.
What They Have to Say: “The War on Drugs has decimated the Black community and I saw it first-hand as a kid growing up. I have relatives that have been locked up for it, and it’s terrible how the Black community was used as a pawn by the government. It fractured our communities. When cannabis started becoming legal, I thought this was a great opportunity to level the playing field, especially in wealth disparities,” Anthony told BIPOCANN in an interview, “We’re now so many years into legalization and the number of Black folks in cannabis is minuscule. My mission is to educate as many Black folks on how they can overcome hurdles to entering this industry.”
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at www.winstoneng.com or follow them on Instagram at @winston_engineering_inc.
2. Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition
Where They Operate: Hampton Roads, Virginia
What They Do: Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition (VMCC), founded and led by Paul McLean, provides powerful training opportunities and eliminates the red-tape to help minorities capitalize as the cannabis industry rapidly expands in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In their goals to empower Black and Brown communities to become shareholders in the cannabis industry, the Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition has three main activities surrounding advocacy: 1) Expungement – The VMCC engages with politicians to expunge the records of those adversely affected by cannabis-related arrests, 2) Education – The VMCC provides powerful training and a detailed roadmap for minorities seeking to legally enter the State’s exciting new cannabis market, 3) Opportunity – TheVMCC helps minorities capitalize as the cannabis industry rapidly expands across Virginia. The VMCC offers a 4-week Cannabis Bootcamp that aims to help people build generational wealth through cannabis.
What They Have to Say: “Our cannabis business bootcamps exist to help build generational wealth through Virginia’s emerging legal cannabis industry by giving people resources and a headstart,” said Paul McLean to BIPOCANN, “We make the process of building a business accessible, by applying what we know about the intricacies of cannabis, and supporting people the entire way – from the seed of an idea to developing a written business plan.”
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://vmccequity.org/.
3. Social Equality Smoke House (SESH)
Where They Operate: Chicago, Illinois, providing services across the United States
What They Do: Social Equality Smoke House (SESH), is a cannabis resource company. Their mission is to foster their passion for cannabis through services, training, and events. SESH challenges the status quo by creating equal opportunities for businesses of all sizes to succeed within the cannabis community.
What They Have to Say: “My focus has always been making an impact in the community, specifically for people of color who are trying to find their way in the cannabis industry,” said Derrick Levy, co-founder and Director of Training, “It’s important to allow ourselves to grow in the space so that we can then bring the opportunities back and serve as role models in our community.”
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://www.seshcity.com or follow them on Instagram at @seshcityunlimited
4. Roux Black Consulting
Where They Operate: Denver, Colorado, providing services across the United States
What They Do: Roux Black Consulting is a woman-owned and Black-owned project management agency that focuses on campaign development, marketing, strategy and operations by creating actionable plans with lasting impact. Using her gifts as a master facilitator and observer, the work of Ru and her team marries the brands of cannabis and music together in unique ways that impact the arts world, while deepening community connections and decreasing the effects of the War on Drugs. In both the cannabis and music industries, Roux Black has mastered a formula for demographic expansion using methods of facilitation, brand development, and high level strategy.
Founded by consultant, strategist and operations specialist Ru Johnson, Roux Black’s specialty is working with cannabis brands to expand their audience and scale their efforts to reach and serve the industry. They are thinkers, producers, operational experts and can take any idea from nothing to something of their client’s wildest dreams. The team creates and executes campaigns around messaging, social impact, and the importance of an equitable industry.
What They Have to Say: “Creating a network of BIPOC individuals in the cannabis space is such a valuable component to increasing participation amongst professionals of color,” said Ru Johnson to BIPOCANN, “This kind of network and coming together allows for iron to sharpen iron and for a greater sharing of experiences in the industry that really impact change.”
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://rouxblack.com/, reach out directly to Roux Black at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Instagram at @rouxblack
5. JAC Accounting
Where They Operate: Phoenix, Arizona, providing services across the United States
What They Do: JAC Accounting, operated by Jean A. Casey, is a woman-owned and black-owned business providing accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation services to the cannabis industry niche. JAC Accounting recognizes that proper accounting for a cannabis business is unlike accounting for any other industry, due to complex compliance issues, banking laws, tax limitations and reporting requirements. JAC Accounting is dedicated to helping cannabis businesses run smoothly utilizing General Acceptable Accounting Practices (GAAP) and outsourced CFO services.
What They Have to Say: “American poet, Mattie Stepanek, said ‘Unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved,’” said Jean A. Casey to BIPOCANN, “I believe this quote is fitting for our culture in the cannabis industry.”
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://www.acaccountingteam.com/jac-accounting-llc or follow them on Instagram at @jacaccounting01
6. Illinois Equity Staffing
Where They Operate: Chicago, Illinois
What They Do: Founded by Lynette Johnson and Shawnee Williams, Illinois Equity Staffing is Black-Owned business (MBE), Woman-Owned business (WBE), and disabled-owned business that makes it easier, more efficient and more profitable for people to run their business as they navigate the emerging cannabis and hemp market. Teaming up with Illinois Equity Staffing allows cannabis businesses to access a powerful, enterprise system for recruiting, staffing, onboarding and benefits administration, training, payroll, compliance, and social equity/diversity reporting.
What They Have to Say: “It’s not up to the legislators to do everything for us. It’s really on the industry to right wrongs, and to make things right.”- co-founder Shawnee Williams regarding the challenges facing cannabis social equity in the industry.
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://www.illinoisequitystaffing.com/ and follow them on Instagram at @illinoisequitystaffing
7. Delaney Policy Group
Where They Operate: Boston, Massachusetts
What They Do: Founded in 2012 by Daniel J. Delaney, the Delaney Policy Group (DPG) is a Boston-based, Black-owned government affairs and strategic consulting firm focused on delivering high-value outcomes in complex policy environments. With a proven track record of success in the cannabis industry, health care, biotechnology and economic development, DPG specializes in strategic engagement for specified outcomes rather than brute force lobbying. From engaging Massachusetts state and municipal officials to brokering critical interactions with community and industry thought leaders, DPG helps their clients navigate conversations with the decision-makers who can determine the success or failure of their agenda.
What They Have to Say: “It’s just the fact that it’s very hard to get off the ground in the super-expensive, sort of novelty industry if you’re getting in at the mom-and-pop level,” Delaney said in an interview when asked about minority representation in an industry pervaded by big corporations, “There needs to be more active incubator nurturing of the minority-owned companies,” Delaney adds.
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at http://www.delaneypolicygroup.com/ and follow them on Instagram at @delaney_policy_group
8. Black CannaBusiness Magazine
Where They Operate: Houston, Texas, providing services across the United States
What They Do: Founded by Kristi Price, Black CannaBusiness Magazine is a woman-owned and Black-owned company helping Black professionals accelerate their involvement in the cannabis industry. Black CannaBusiness Magazine actively supports the growth of Black-owned cannabis businesses through education, outreach, and business partnerships. They also produce the Black CannaBusiness Conference & Expo, a national event focused on the acceleration and success of Black-owned cannabis businesses in the industry.
What They Have to Say: “I’m an advocate for inspiring us, with us. We’re not new to this, we’re true to this. Building an industry and business is what Black people have done since forever.” – Kristi Price, in an interview with Leafly.
Where to Find More Information: Visit their website at https://blackcannabusiness.com/ to learn more about opportunities for Black-owned cannabis businesses, and follow them on Instagram at @blackcannabusinessmagazine.
Towards an Accessible & Profitable Industry for Black Cannabis Entrepreneurs
Black-owned businesses and their founders and operators are not only dedicated to their own craft and expertise, be it engineering, advocacy, marketing and communications, lobbying, accounting, staffing, or media, but they have all dedicated to advancing Black ownership in cannabis businesses through the BIPOCANN network.
BIPOCANN is a Black-owned cannabis business membership organization and consulting firm that is working to shape a more accessible and profitable legal cannabis industry for BIPOC cannabis entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals in the Americas. Membership in BIPOCANN helps promote diversity in cannabis by reducing barriers for social equity and BIPOC-owned cannabis businesses to access industry education, networking, events, and resources to support their growth.
BIPOCANN also offers resources to cannabis companies that are choosing to shape a more equitable and inclusive industry, while providing the cannabis industry as a whole a business directory of BIPOC-owned plant-touching and ancillary-services they can do business with. “This is a unique period in time,” said BIPOCANN founder Ernest Toney in a recent panel discussion that addressed racial inequity and promoting social justice in cannabis, “We have an opportunity to create an industry that is different from traditional industries.”
Learn more about BIPOCANN and the membership options available for individuals and businesses here.