Legal Marijuana: Bringing Black Entrepreneurs Into Emerging Market

From Budtender To Business Owner: Bringing Black Entrepreneurs Into Emerging Marijuana Market

Where Marijuana is Legal, Dealers prepare to battle Corporate Cannabis

With marijuana legislation going mainstream, there is a call for African Americans to get on the boat as the industry grows, or lose their place at the table.

Since marijuana became regulated and taxed in some states, business has been booming. And congress is adopting a hands off approach.

According to, “An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production laws passed with 237 votes.”

In Colorado, during the first month of recreational sales, licensed dispensaries generated more than $14 million, with $2 million in tax revenue from 59 businesses in the state.

So can African Americans get some? There are several avenues where budding entrepreneurs can profit. Either apply to own a dispensary, become a grower or own a grow-house. spoke with Corey Barnette, owner at District Growers in Washington, DC. He owns entities in both marijuana cultivation and on the dispensary side.

He says like most industries across the country, experience is key. It makes sense to start the journey as a budtender, before breaking out on your own.

Barnette says the first thing to look for is an established, cultivated grower to take you under their wing. They look for people with little or no growing cannabis experience, and the ability to learn their techniques and execute them properly.

“Experienced growers typically have a bunch of bad habits. If they have a botany background, they probably have some advantage, but you don’t need credentials to become a grower on an entry-level. Most people just aren’t willing to do it because it doesn’t pay much”.

If an established, sophisticated cultivator takes you into their training program, successfully completing their courses elevates you to standard grower status. You then work your way to senior cultivator or senior grower, which means being seasoned enough at this point to handle a garden. At this level you should be able to turn the product into concentrate or edibles. A Senior manager handles a cultivation operation. Promotion to garden manager means you can be trusted to run an entire facility.

The first stage of the process, from trainee to grower, lasts six months. Barnette says they “put you through training modules and on-the-job tests, and watch to see how good you are at things like cloning”.

It usually takes about 4-6 months to develop the habits and the regimen mandatory for eligibility to take their grower tests.  Employees are also given a knowledge-based test at the end of the training period. If they pass and also do well on the hands-on portion, then it’s an almost automatic promotion to actual grower and an increase in income.

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From there its a grow at your own pace system. You’ll need to pass an advanced growing test that requires more sophisticated growing techniques and another written test. Pass that and you become a senior grower. This usually lasts anywhere between one or two years, depending on talent.