Black-owned Non-Profits Navigating the Emerging Marijuana Market

How Nonprofits Navigate the Emerging Legal Marijuana Market

(Image: Dr. Lakisha Jenkins)

(Image: Dr. Lakisha Jenkins)

I don’t know that more African Americans are not necessarily engaged. I do know of a few. Unfortunately, in California, since we don’t have statewide regulations it is very difficult to publicize or market your business, or feel comfortable having the spotlight on your business when you face the scrutiny of the local or even statewide law enforcement possibly barging in and questioning the legalities and operational status of your business.

How does one become a member?

If you don’t have a recommendation for medical cannabis, there is a membership fee. You fill out a medical intake packet where you give us your medical information and then you fill out our membership agreement and pay your fee as long as you are a California resident carrying ID. If you do have a recommendation you still have to provide ID and the recommendation for medicinal cannabis to be able to access cannabis through our co-op.

How much is it to become a member?

$50 annual fee.

Are your blends or balms all cannabis infused? What about patients who want a marijuana-free option?

Some have and some don’t. For example, we have an herbal pain relief salve–it is really good for pain and any kind of external injuries–that has a blend of proprietary herbs including wild lettuce and white willow bark. There is a regular version that does not include cannabis and there is an extra strength version that is infused with a C.B.D or cannabinoid rich version of cannabis.

What kind of challenges do you face as a nonprofit marijuana provider?

Not having a strong regulatory system available on a statewide basis. That’s what we all find challenging. It makes the cost of doing business much greater. It makes doing business more difficult because you have to keep coming up with innovative ways to conduct business that other businesses don’t necessarily have to or are not burdened with.

Can you clarify?

Banking. We don’t have access to banking in our industry because the majority of the reasoning behind it is that bank deposits are federally insured and cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. And banks don’t feel comfortable with opening accounts for entrepreneurs in our industry. It makes most of us have to conduct business on a cash-only basis.

Can you provide another example of a challenge you face?

Because we have to conduct business on a cash-only basis, we spend a lot of money on security. If we had a regulatory system available in California that gave us clear, definitive laws that said what we can and cannot do, we would be able to function along the realm of normal businesses in the state of California. What we have instead is an unregulated system.

Advice for people who want to get into your space?

My best advice is if you want to get into the cannabis industry is to educate yourself. Read up about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, the way cannabinoids and the active constituents of cannabis work with our bodies.  Most of the states in the U.S. that have a cannabis law have one that is only on a medical level. Understand how cannabis relates to your body and how it works and functions on a therapeutic level in order for you build your business around it.

You also might want to join the trade organizations. If you are in California there is the California Cannabis Industry Association. I would encourage interested people to join and attend events. We’re also helping to shape the regulations or current or future regulations in the state of California.