As a co-founder of a public interest organization, I often think of how targets of the drug war policies can influence and change the legacy of legal cannabis.
And I wonder why more hip hop moguls aren't involved in the cannabis movement on a larger scale, beyond branding and marketing opportunities.
After all, there's an overarching theme of economic development for people of color in the burgeoning cannabis industry, and that growth should be accompanied by a hip hop soundtrack that goes deeper than putting a face on a product.
The ever-shifting legal marijuana landscape creates possibilities for entrepreneurs in the right spot at the right time to become multi-millionaires as if overnight.
But upcoming shifts in policy and regulations might just as readily take away the possibilities.
Today, titans of cannabis-infused products are banding together with globally known entertainers for marketing synergy, but I wonder how those entertainers can help secure the future of weed.
Many of the mom-and-pop businesses that I know of here in California have wonderful products that help patients. Their expansion and profit margins are directly limited by a lack of banking options and related lack of access to training and investment.
So, denied access to secure loans, many business owners remain small, sometimes unlicensed, often operating in the informal economy for lack of options.
What if the hip hop moguls making waves in tech, turned their sights to investment in cannabis in more than single product line and self-branded products?
Where are the current or former “street pharmacists” to turn when they want to go straight?
As with any industry, sharks are circling waiting to make deals that current mom-and-pop owners might only take due to pressure they feel because investment money is hard to come by when your business is still a federal crime.
This industry needs a vehicle for investors to participate in seed-round pitch competitions solely in the licensed categories of so-called “plant touching” businesses such as hash making, retail, and delivery/transportation.
These plant-touching categories are key.
These are the areas where investors (who up until now are mostly white) see the most risk. Unfortunately, the majority of the current crop of weed investors is very wary of “high risk” investments.
And to pile misfortune upon the unfortunate, businesses in the plant-touch categories are often owned, operated, or staffed by the formerly incarcerated and individuals living on minimum wage in the service industries. They can't go back to their old-boy college networks for investment infusions.
So what if the hip hop moguls making waves in tech, turned their sights to investment in cannabis in more than single product line and self-branded products?
What if they could bring together the hip hop investors with the former dope boys, directly creating seed funding to take the first step in leaving the streets and moving toward to the board room?
Imagine a world in which social entrepreneurship models like Homeboy Industries are replicated in the pot industry with hash oil manufacturing, pot cultivation, and THC retail as the products rather than sandwiches and burritos.
Hip hop artist and investor, Nasir Jones, told Fast Company:
That's one of the things that I thought a lot about as a young kid—the guys behind the scenes who make things happen, help build people up, make dreams come true.
All of this imagining isn't that far from being put into reality: With dispensaries in California paying upward of $14 per hour, investment in diverse business owners means investment in increased employment and related income tax revenue for the state.
Some of these plant-niche employers offer full benefits including retirement accounts.
Such jobs and businesses, originating in areas like East Oakland and San Bernardino where economic redevelopment has been slow, would do as much for the state in terms of collecting tax dollars as it would for the residents of these areas, providing an influx of access to capital would flow in and increase opportunities to build wealth.
If hip hop does for cannabis entrepreneurs what it's been doing for tech and other industries, then we'll see the rise of businesses owned by those most victimized by the war on drugs.
Legislation such as California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act has earmarked $10 to $50 million in estimated tax revenue for investment in communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
Working into this tax base, Nas could finance the first Kiva for cannabis, focused on direct loans to people in those communities.
Sure, eventually Kiva itself will become the Kiva for cannabis. But given the banking issues with existing cannabis businesses, the day when states have robust regulations in place for their pot revenues may be some time off.
In the meantime, the “Kiva for cannabis” could build its base of users and business owners and lay down a groundwork for those future banking regulations.
Nas, Snoop, Russell Simmons, and E-40 have the capacity to work on a careful study of what works elsewhere in their respective investment ventures.
In fact, Snoop has already been deep into weed investments and will likely continue to grow his portfolio. However, he's but one investor.
I want to see Rae Sremmurd finance a SremmLife co-op in each major city in California, and an OVO smoking lounge and investment fund for cannabis businesses in the U.S. and Canada.
The future can't be predicted, but hope for rebirth and faith in ourselves are facts.
What's certain is that if hip hop does for cannabis entrepreneurs what it's been doing for tech and other industries, then we'll see the rise of businesses owned by those most victimized by the war on drugs.