Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.
Here’s an interesting fact: The national legal cannabis industry is bigger than the National Football League. Many billions of dollars bigger. Take 2020, a pandemic year, for example. The NFL saw its annual revenues decline by $4 billion, to $12 billion, while medical and recreational marijuana sales grew by 60%, to $18.4 billion.
Where the two are more in alignment is when it comes to the lack of diversity among ownership despite the support each business receives from minority consumers of their products.
Tahir Johnson isn’t taking on the quixotic challenge of changing the NFL’s lack of diversity in team ownership. When speaking about the business of cannabis, he uses the NFL to provide “proper context” on his efforts to keep the still-very-young industry from continuing a trend toward building an entrenched NFL-like monochromatic corporate makeup.
Johnson is the director of social equity and inclusion for the U.S. Cannabis Council, a broad coalition of cannabis businesses, organizations and people working to legalize the drug at the federal level. The Council was founded in 2021.
The drive for social equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry is gaining momentum. After years of trying, Johnson recently applied and received a dispensary license in his hometown of Trenton, N.J., using personal savings and his 401k to cover related expenses like attorneys’ fees.
Florida’s vertically integrated business model tightly restricts access to its medical marijuana market, with licensees required to manage everything from growing the cannabis plant to selling products at the treatment centers they own.
Johnson encourages people of color to enter the marijuana space through side doors.
“People often think about the plant-touching opportunities, like at the dispensary, cultivation, or manufacturing facility. But, really, one of the greatest opportunities that I see for our people to get involved in the industry is through ancillary services,” he says.
Visit https://bit.ly/3wyizR1 to watch MMERI’s Conversations on Cannabis Virtual Forum on YouTube featuring Tahir Johnson.