Colorado’s Black Entrepreneurs Cashing In on Booming Pot Industry

By Victoria Kim 05/26/15

NBC News recently profiled the rise of African American "potrepreneurs" in their three-part series, Black & Green.

mature pot plant.jpg

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Alaska, there has never been a better time for black and brown people to get in on the ground floor of this booming industry, according to Lakisha Jenkins, president of the California branch of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

In a recent three-part feature, Black & Green, NBC profiled the ascent of black entrepreneurs who are channeling their business savvy into Colorado’s new legal marijuana industry, and they're cashing in big time.

Wanda James and Scott Durrah, a power couple with a background in the restaurant business, are just one example. James, a former U.S. Navy officer and Fortune 500 executive, and Durrah, a marine veteran and professional chef, were the first African American dispensary owners in Colorado in 2008. In July, they plan to open a new dispensary called Simply Pure alongside a gourmet marijuana cooking school.

Colorado’s first recreational marijuana stores officially opened on January 1, 2014, creating new opportunities through dispensaries, grow houses, edibles companies, and other cannabis-related products and services. Khadijah and Charles Adams moved to the state to capitalize on these opportunities.

After learning that Charles’ criminal record—he had spent years in federal prison on felony drug distribution charges—prohibited him from working in the state’s pot industry and opening a dispensary, the couple decided to focus on trading marijuana stocks, which Charles could do despite being a convicted felon.

So far, the couple has more than 1.5 million shares of marijuana stocks. Now they want to share their knowledge and experience with other budding entrepreneurs through the Marijuana Investment & Private Retreat (MIPR). Their goal is to host a series of weekend conferences to educate the average person on how to invest in marijuana stocks. Khadijah believes it is her responsibility to go out and educate people because there is “a very strong lack of representation of African Americans and minorities in the cannabis industry.”

James, Durrah, the Adamses, and Duncan Cameron, chief production officer at the Good Chemistry Dispensary, agree that pot’s negative stigma and a widespread lack of knowledge has kept many black and brown Americans from pursuing work in the industry.

“You only get so many opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a market like this,” Cameron told NBC. “Anybody with any interest and ambition should be trying to get into this industry. The opportunities are truly endless.”

“I want the African American community to see this for what it is, which is an amazing opportunity with a plant that is not a fatal plant,” said James, who is also an active advocate of pot law reform. “I want to see politicians speak positively about this industry and the fact that we are saving lives and the lives of our people who are being incarcerated.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr