Cannabis 50 Celebrates Black History Month
Black History Month provides an opportunity to shine a light on Black culture and highlight achievements and contributions. The 4th Annual MGO Cannabis 50 features the stories of several black founders, entertainers, and social justice leaders who are helping push the cannabis industry forward. To celebrate Black History Month, we are compiling and broadcasting their stories to honor their hard work using their voices for change.
See these stories, quotes, and more in the MGO Cannabis 50.
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Sean “Diddy” Combs created the largest Black-owned cannabis company in the world when he and his company, Combs Global (formally Combs Enterprises) purchased licensed cannabis operations in New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts from Cresco Labs and Columbia Care for approximately $185 million. The deal includes retail stores and production facilities. Touted as the “first minority-owned, vertically integrated multi-state cannabis brand,” the big move has the potential to shape how the industry approaches consolidation. This only helps Combs pursue his mission of creating opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in industries where they’ve previously been denied entry. By owning the entire process from cultivation to wholesale distribution, he hopes to “empower diverse leaders throughout the ecosystem,” and act as an advocate for inclusion across the board.
There are few more passionate about inclusivity and social justice in cannabis than the leaders at Cannaclusive, who work to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers and help brands communicate with diverse audiences. Launched in 2020, the Accountability List and Cannabis for Black Lives work to address gaps in equity within the industry and highlight cannabis companies that have consistently delivered on their commitments to increasing BIPOC diversity and inclusion. In 2022, Cannaclusive, alongside Jasmine Mans of Buy Weed from Women, launched the CLIO Award-winning miniseries ‘Flowers for Mom,’ which shone a spotlight on the relationship between mothers and daughters. The organization also became partners with Tricolla Farms, a woman owned NYS CAURD cultivator. To “celebrate the culture of this thriving community,” Cannaclusive empowers minority cannabis consumers and operators by providing a voice and a platform for change.
Former NBA star Al Harrington’s Viola Brands is an example of how to leverage celebrity power into a thriving cannabis brand. As his company grows, he hasn’t forgotten to give back to where he came from. He organizes charitable efforts through Viola Cares, a program that focuses on community engagement and support as it works directly with local and national organizations committed to reinvesting into communities hit the hardest by the war on drugs. Harrington has built Viola Cares to provide immediate support and resources to those in need, shape local cannabis industry policy, tackle social justice reform, and assist those with a criminal record with expungement and successful reentry into society.
The proclaimed ambassador of New Orleans Bounce music, Big Freedia has elevated herself as a hip-hop artist, cultural influencer, and TV personality. Now, she’s seeking more ways to “get elevated” – this time, as a cannabis entrepreneur with the launch of Royal Bud, a premium cannabis line with fun product strains like Mardi Grass and Release Ya Wiggle. Why cannabis? Well, Freedia knows a lot of the biggest brands in the industry aren’t comprised of people who “look like her, like what she likes, or stand for what she stands for.” As a proud advocate for racial and gender equality, as well as LGBTQ+ rights, Freedia believes “anyone can be royalty,” and her brand, launched in August 2022, supports that mindset with a culture of inclusivity and positivity.
Multi-platinum selling, Grammy and Golden Globe nominated recording artist Wiz Khalifa’s first major label debut album was titled ROLLING PAPERS – he’s long supported cannabis publicly. Since then, he’s created a mobile app called Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm, which has more than 10 million downloads, and he’s stayed a steady advocate for a smoke that “stays true to the flower.” In 2015, he launched Khalifa Kush (KK), a strong balanced strain that allows everyone to “smoke like Wiz.” In 2022, he partnered with Trulieve to release KK in Florida, which expands his cannabis brand’s reach to nine different states.
Known as a legendary artist who ruled hip hop to become the first female rapper to have a No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, Lil’ Kim can now claim a new title: cannabis entrepreneur. In 2022, she disrupted the male-dominated cannabis industry by launching a designer line of strains called Aphrodisiak. The brand’s products were hand-selected and developed with Kim’s input, ensuring the passion her fans know her for is infused in each one. Credited with helping to open audiences up to the appeal of cannabis in her early music, she has long defied its stigma. Her company is poised to span the country, and, eventually, the globe, as she furthers her mission to: “Empower other women to be bold, courageous, triumphant and superbad.”
Founded by Stephen Marley and CEO Shelly O’Neill, Kx Family Care is the first all natural hemp-based personal care brand that’s safe and effective for the entire family. In the tradition of Stephen’s family legacy to teach about all the many uses of the hemp plant, Kx Family Care was a natural progression for the eight-time Grammy Award winner. Kx Family Care is a branch of Kaya Lifestyle, a conglomerate also owned and operated by Stephen Marley. Kaya Fest is the hemp education festival branch dubbed “The Annual Marley Family Reunion” where all things come together!
Legendary boxer, entrepreneur, and cannabis advocate Mike Tyson recently announced his premium cannabis brand, TYSON 2.0, is collaborating with dompen™ and #BREATHEWITHME to support social justice initiatives. The group launched limited edition all-in-one vape pens and one-of-a-kind apparel and art. All proceeds are headed to #BREATHEWITHME’s nonprofit partner New Earth Life. This is the latest venture that demonstrates TYSON 2.0’s commitment to further social justice initiatives and building an equitable world. Also in 2022, TYSON 2.0 raised a series A specifically to expand its celebrity portfolio: and it worked. The company announced it was coming together with pro wrestler Ric Flair’s cannabis company, Ric Flair Drip, and four-time world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield’s Holy Ear’s THC products, under a new parent company called Carma HoldCo.
Veteran and media personality Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, and the painkillers he was prescribed nearly gave him an opioid addiction. It wasn’t until 2001 when his doctor suggested cannabis that he realized the plant’s benefits. This started a 21-year fight for widespread patient access to medical cannabis. Montel even spoke in front of state legislatures all over the country, long before medical marijuana was a popular political issue, to remove the stigma. His advocacy eventually inspired him to partner with Taunton Freshly Baked Company to create a new cannabis brand, Inspire by Montel. Announced in April 2022, the brand makes THC and CBD blended vape cartridges to help people with chronic pain.
Black entrepreneurs leading the way
We recognize that the cannabis industry was founded and built by many Black people with a vision for a better future. We work to honor their contributions as we celebrate the entrepreneurs currently making history in cannabis.
The minority disruptors innovating and changing the cannabis industry all have on thing in common: perseverance. While the road to success hasn’t been easy, we’re proud of the work these leaders have done against the challenges they’ve faced. Go here to learn more about the Cannabis 50.