SPOILER ALERT — You won’t find Snoop, Wiz Khalifa or Jay-Z on this list.
While researching for the latest update of our top-selling workbook, How to Succeed in the Cannabis Industry, 3rd edition, I found information around Black and Hispanic-owned businesses in the legal cannabis industry underwhelming. Far too often invisible. From High Times Magazine to MJ Biz Daily, people of color are rarely included in the global lists highlighting key cannabis industry insiders in significant numbers. Only a few consistent names make the mainstream round-ups, largely focused on big name celebrities doing little to truly impact the industry’s public perception, government regulations or social equity.
For most, especially men of color, there are no shortcuts to success in the legal cannabis industry. Through the years, I have been inspired by those working passionately on the ground to make it happen for themselves and their communities. Yet, the stories of impactful work, inherent risks and incredible sacrifices of the Black and Latinx cannabis community remain far too often untold. Legitimate and visible representation matters to the future of this industry. While too many men of color have been rendered victims or criminals by prohibition, there are some making headway in legal cannabis. This list offers a glimpse into the ways Black and Hispanic men are trailblazing the legal cannabis industry. These 65 outstanding men are truly pioneers, reshaping the narrative around marijuana and hemp to push the movement beyond past incarceration and current domination by a wealthy and privileged few. This list of men to watch in 2020 aims to inspire, motivate and empower the next wave of professionals, entrepreneurs and investors looking for their successful path into the legal cannabis industry.
#31 Al Harrington – Global
Retired NBA player, Al Harrington founded Viola Brands in 2011, naming the company after his grandmother. Inspired by her experience as a cannabis patient, Al has become a global cannabis advocate and Viola is now a nationwide leader in the production and sale of premium quality cannabis products, licensed to operate in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and California, with plans to expand into Arizona and Nevada in 2020.
#32 Gary George – Piscataway, NJ
Known as “The Digital Marketing Ninja”, Gary George has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years as President & CEO of Blazin’ Multimedia helping companies multiple industies increase revenue, market share and customer loyalty with creative & technical digital marketing solutions. He recently transitioned his expertise into the cannabis industry, launching Real Cannabis Entrepreneur, providing professional training and coaching from an elite group of proven cannabis pioneers.
#33 Jose Belen – Miami, FL
Jose Belen is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran and co-founder of Florida Mission Zero, a nonprofit organization addressing the PTSD and suicide epidemic plaguing U.S. veterans. An inspiring public speaker and an outspoken advocate for compassionate access to medical cannabis, he is one of six individuals and organizations who are currently suing the federal government to remove cannabis from its list of Schedule I drugs.
#34 Grizzly Bocourt – Queens, NY
A Rebel Minded Society (A.R.M.S.), founded by Grizzly Bocourt, is a
lifestyle brand known for curating events, producing content, as well as providing platforms that educate and equip millennials with tools to actualize positive change in their communities. A leader in the New York cannabis community, Grizzly is founder and Creative Director of Cannaware Societyand head of NY Cannabis United, a coalition of advocacy groups.
#35 John Alston, Jr. – Oakland, CA
The other half of the dynamic duo behind James Henry SF, John Alston is
a U.S. Navy veteran and mechanical engineer transferring his previous operational skills and experience with atmospheric gases to the cannabis space. As co-founder and COO, he is innovating and setting new standards in the cannabis industry with products carefully curated from seed-to-sale and undergoing various checkpoints during the CO2 extraction and distillation processes.
#36 Seun Adedeji – Global
Headquartered in Oregon, Elev8 Cannabis is a multi-state operator of cannabis dispensaries founded by Chicago-native, Seun Adedeji. Leading the industry in his commitment to service, inclusion, and social equity, Seun is the youngest Black man in the country running a cannabis dispensary, with licenses and plans to open additional stores in Massachusetts and Illinois.
#37 Todd J. Hughes, PMP – Washington, DC
Todd Hughes is an experienced project manager, engineer and entrepreneur who has consulted with over 100 companies since his business EntreVation was formed in 2015. A business incubator and accelerator, EntreVation provides project management services and human capital development for public and private sector clients, including a vertical specifically for cannabis. He recently became Chairman of the Board of Directors for Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA).
#38 Roger Obando – Venice, CA
With over 20 years of experience in software development and consulting, Roger Obando is co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer for Baker Technologies, a leading CRM software platform for the cannabis industry, servicing more than 800 dispensaries across the US and Canada. In 2018, after one the largest cannabis tech acquisitions in the history of the industry, Roger successfully exited from Baker. He is the author of The Highest Common Denominator, available on Amazon.
#39 Clinton “CJ” Carter, Jr. – Louisville, KY
Clinton Carter, Jr. is co-founder of Comfy Hemp, an e-commerce business offering hemp-derived, CBD-infused tinctures, salves and protein for multiple ailments. As a patient treating his seizures with cannabis, CJ is committed to providing full-spectrum CBD hemp extract through multiple consumption methods to accommodate and help consumers. He is the president of Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) Kentucky chapter.
#40 Zachary Knox, Esq. – Oakland, CA
Zachary Knox, Esq., a partner at Knox and Ross Law Group with extensive experience with in business law, tax and corporate finance, is Legal Counsel and a key team member at Make Green Go., the first consulting firm to be awarded a government contract to support social equity applicants. He is also the Vice Chair of the City of Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
#41 Mike James – Global
After experiencing an injury and subsequent opioid dependency, pro baller Mike James turned to cannabis and ultimately, became the first NFL player in league history to request an official “therapeutic use exemption” from the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Mike has chosen to ignore the league’s warnings and anti-cannabis education to remain a vocal advocate. He has been featured on CNN documentary series Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and works closely with various organizations to lobby on behalf of medical cannabis and access for professional athletes.
#42 Reggie Keith – Buffalo, NY
Buffalo-native and cannabis advocate, Reggie Keith is the founder and visionary behind Canna-House, Western New York’s #1 platform for education and activity-based cannabis events. Reggie has built the Canna-House community on the foundation of inclusion, innovation and information, providing much-needed resources for individuals looking to get medical marijuana certification in the northeast. Working in partnership with WNY NORML, he recently worked to bring Netflix’ Grass is Greener film screening to Buffalo.
#43 Brandon Banks – Denver, CO
Brandon Banks is co-founder and COO of Natural Selections Dispensary in Colorado. After years of working for several fortune 500 companies including McDonald’s Co, JP Morgan Chase, and Philip Morris, Brandon moved to Colorado and transitioned to the medical marijuana industry. An award-winning master grower, Brandon recently joined the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) Board of Directors, serving as co-Chair of the Economic Empowerment Committee.
#44 Nelson Guerrero – New York, NY
Nelson Guerrero is co-founder and Executive Director of the Cannabis Cultural Association (CCA). Under his leadership, CCA has become one of the most influential advocacy groups in the industry, most notably one of six plaintiffs suing the Department of Justice and DEA for the removal of Cannabis from The Controlled Substances Act. A bilingual Ecuadorian-American, Nelson is also the Vice-Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
#45 Donte Townsend – Chicago, IL
Founding board member of Chicago NORML, Donte Townsend is the regional chapter’s Communications Director, amplifying the chapter’s efforts to specifically educate and motivate communities of color to de-stigmatize and accept the cannabis plant as a vehicle for health, wellness, political and economic empowerment. Donte is a leader in the industrial hemp industry, providing premium products grown and harvested in an Illinois-based facility with over 3 million square feet.
#46 Kevin Ford, Jr. – Baltimore, MD
Morehouse graduate and commercial real estate expert, Kevin Ford is CEO of Uplift Maryland. Under his vision and leadership, Uplift strives seeks to ‘End The Stigma’ associated with cannabis through education and training. The company works to increase diversity and inclusion within the emerging medical cannabis industry, ensuring Black and Hispanic communities have an opportunity to participate in the economy of the future. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
#47 Brian Williams – Austin, TX
Brian Williams is an engineer and full stack developer with significant early stage experience and operational knowledge. He is Managing Partner for Wayne & Reed, a startup consulting firm focused on B2B cannabis technologies. A former management consultant for Accenture now leading the way in “cannatech”, Brian also previously worked as Chief Technology Officer for BDTNDR, a proprietary learning management system for cannabis retail employees or “budtenders”. He is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
#48 Rashaan Everett – Oakland, CA
Howard University graduate, Rashaan Everett is the founder and CEO of Good Tree Technology, a vertically integrated cannabis brand with over 30,000 square feet of space throughout Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco. After generating more than 20,000 deliveries and over $1.5 million in revenue with Good Tree, Rashaan also established Growing Talent, a community-driven solution that provides aspiring minorities with capital and software training to operate Good Tree franchise dispensaries.
#49 Miguel Trinidad – Global
Miguel Trinidad is de-stigmatizing cannabis through the universal language of food. Best known for his Filipino cuisine at popular New York restaurants, Maharlika and Jeepney, Executive ChefMiguel is co-founder of 99th Floor, a cannabis-infused food brand, hosting invite-only infused gourmet dinners. Miguel has been featured in The New York Times, Food Network, and Black Enterprise.
#50 Jacobi Holland – New York, NY
Jacobi Holland, a mathematician originally from Colorado, is founder of Jade Insights, utilizing his background to help cannabis companies create value through technology and data. Capitalizing on his seed-to-sale experience as an employee and consultant in the Colorado cannabis market, Jacobi is also co-founder and COO of REVEL, a NY-based cannabis innovation showcase, celebrating the entrepreneurs who are defining the next generation practices and standards for the cannabis industry.
#51 Derrell Black – Boston, MA
Working since he was 14 years old, Derrell Black transferred his 10+ years of management experience into the legal cannabis industry as a lobbyist and president of Minorities for Medical Marijuana Massachusetts chapter. An exceptionally driven team leader, Derrell develops regional advocacy, education and marketing campaigns to promote the efficacy of cannabis overall and business viability of the plant. He has been a featured speaker at NECANN Boston, a national convention series and resource hub for the cannabis industry.
#52 Senator Cory Booker – Global
United States Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) first introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017 and re-introduced the bill to legalize marijuana nationwide earlier this year as he entered the 2020 Presidential Election. Under the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, federal courts would expunge the records of individuals with convictions for cannabis possession. The bill legalize cannabis federally and a significant portion of the industry’s tax revenue would go toward community reinvestment efforts.
#53 Vincent Owens – Atlanta, GA
Dubbed “The Cannapreneur“, Vincent Owens is a two-time HBCU graduate and millennial cannabis entrepreneur working to educate the masses on the benefits of cannabis and advocating for millennial growth in the legal cannabis workforce. In 2018, Vincent founded The Cannapreneur Society, a membership-based community providing exclusive events and education in the Georgia cannabis market.
#54 Jamil Myrie – New York, NY
Jamil Myrie is a Harvard University graduate and retail operations veteran. Leveraging nearly 20 years of retail development and management experience, Jamil crossed over his skills into the legal cannabis industry and is currently VP of Retail Operations at Acreage Holdings. With operating licenses in 18 states, Acreage has the largest and most diverse portfolio of cultivation, processing and dispensing operations across the United States.
#55 Dr. Jackson Garth, DBA – Atlanta, GA
A 19-year veteran from the healthcare industry, Dr. Jackson Garth is President & CEO of Verde Leaf™, addressing the challenges farmers face in the hemp arena across license acquisition, hemp cultivation & processing, and legitimate industry knowledge. Through his experience as a leading hemp advisor and National Director of Industrial Hemp for Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM), Jackson has also created The Farming Network™, current and seasoned hemp farmers and specialists across the Southeast.
#56 Philmore Charles – Trenton, NJ
Philmore Charles is co-founder of Black Cannabis, an online platform launched to recreate the narrative around cannabis by delivering raw, uplifting, unapologetic content through editorials, podcasts, and events developed exclusively by people of color. A long-time NJ legalization activist, Phil, also known as “Flip Marlee” is executive producer and co-host on Fully Baked Radio, a cannabis news and entertainment station broadcasting on WPPM 106.5 FM Philadelphia.
#57 Dr. Eric Patrick, Pharm D – Oakland, CA
Clinical pharmacist, financial educator and digital marketer, Dr. Eric Patrick is COO of Good Tree Technology, overseeing operational and marketing strategies for the vertically-integrated, California-based cannabis company. Also known as “The Hip Hop Stock Doc”, Eric is also founder of Black Market Exchange, a financial literacy company for the culture featured on Black Enterprise, Revolt and Credit Karma. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
#58 Steven Hawkins, Esq. – Washington, DC
A Harvard graduate, Steven Hawkins has spent 30 years as a nonprofit leader, foundation program officer and human rights attorney including several as Executive Vice President for the NAACP. Today, Steven is Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), bringing his extensive leadership experience to the largest organization in the U.S. that’s focused solely on leading the effort in Washington, D.C. to pass federal medical marijuana legislation, as well as to replace marijuana prohibition with a system of sensible regulation and control.
#59 Douglas K. Gordon – Global
Douglas Gordon is a seasoned entrepreneur and the founder of the CanEx Jamaica, an annual business conference & expo, which has been recognized for playing a pivotal role in advancing the cannabis industry in Jamaica, which recently legalized. Douglas also applies his extensive entrepreneurship, sales and marketing experience as Chairman of Zimmer & Co., a health and wellness distribution enterprise and one of the first companies to have a portfolio of brands that have been approved for sale in Jamaica by the Ministry of Health.
#60 Cory Holmes – St. Louis, Missouri
Cory Holmes, a former college football player and database administrator, founded Holmes Organics™ after realizing that the newly developing CBD industry is still highly unregulated and full of ineffective yet expensive products. Holmes Organics offers a range of trustworthy broad spectrum CBD products direct-to-consumer and wholesale. After successfully launching his own CBD business, Cory also launched The CBD Startup Academy™, an online school for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs, providing insights on business structure, distribution, merchant processing, and marketing.
#61 Corey Barnette – Washington, DC
Corey Barnette has been pioneering within the legal cannabis industry for over 10 years. A seasoned investment banker and venture capitalist, Corey is founder and CEO of District Growers, a licensed medical cannabis cultivation center in Washington, DC. He also acquired Metropolitan Wellness Center dispensary, also located in DC. Previously, Corey served on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Medical Collective and operated the Chi Holistic Collective, noted as two of the 10 largest dispensary operations in San Diego.
#62 Kaliko Castille – Global
With nearly 10 years of activism and brand strategy experience within the cannabis industry, Kaliko is the Head of Growth for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), leading a team in charge of sales, marketing, business development, partnerships and strategy for the organization. This year he brought his global leadership to the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) as the Vice President of the Board of Directors.
#63 David Beckford – St. Louis, MO
David Beckford is the founder and lead Creative Director for Dynasty Television, a St. Louis-based media production company and collective of media partners producing original programming reaching over 14 million listeners and viewers. An advocate and president of the Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM) Missouri chapter, David uses his platform and reach to highlight cannabis content and education. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
#64 David Serrano – New York, NY
A U.S. Navy veteran, serial social entrepreneur and cannabis industry advocate, David Serrano started his journey in cannabis by extracting and infusing cannabis products for his mother. Today, David is the Chief Operating Officer for Harvest 360 Technologies, bringing a wealth of insights in administrative management from his prior military career and his nearly 10 years of experience in every sector of the cannabis industry.
#65 Brandon L. Wyatt, Esq. – Baltimore, MD
Principal attorney at Wyatt Legal & Consulting and decorated U.S. Army combat veteran, Brandon Wyatt has participated in the internal development, social activism, and policy coordination for many service organizations including Veterans for Compassionate Care, EntreVation, and the Weed for Warriors Project. He is on the Board of Directors for Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) and helped to draft the organization’s model state legalization bill. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.