Whether in processing, cultivation, or dispensing cannabis, the contrast in the percentage of minority ownership versus white ownership is stark: just two percent of cannabis licenses in the United States are held by people of color, according to cannabis advocate Roz McCarthy.
McCarthy runs Minorities for Medical Marijuana, which has grown since its infancy three and a half years ago to having a presence in 27 states. In conjunction with Oaksterdam University, billed as “America’s first cannabis college;” the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association; and publicly traded cannabis company Trulieve, M4MM is hosting a two-day intensive to help remedy that.
Applying for a license is hard work. They’re not sugar-coating that.
“The Cannabis Business Licensing Bootcamp is a way to help create some solutions to the minority participation problem. It starts with having an honest conversation,” McCarthy said. “Its the most high risk, high reward, but highly complicated and process-driven industry that we’ve seen in years. I think when you say, ‘hey, come on in’ but you don’t explain it, you do people a disservice. We’re here to help them walk through the process.”
The type of content offered in the intensive touches all bases: from mitigating risk to understanding the accounting piece with 280E to what operating plans consist of, the goal is to help attendees understand what’s necessary in order to go after a license.
“We talk about the financial performance of [dispensing versus cultivating versus processing], how to find an investor, how to create your pitch deck, how to pitch yourself to an investor to a partner,” McCarthy said. “The info shared is intensive but it’s also collaborative. We allow time for questions, for conversation and engagement. There’s a level of expectation for people to engage and to possibly walk away with a new partner.”
This is the second iteration of M4MM’s camp after it hosted another CBLB in Missouri this spring. Of the more than 50 participants in Missouri’s CBLB, over 40 percent applied, partnered, or formed joint ventures with fellow attendees in pursuit of a cannabis license.
The program is foundational, more for entry level folks than those with a near-complete plan and team. Perhaps someone knows a good portion of the business side but doesn’t have an investor, or perhaps they have an investor, but don’t really know how to put together a plan. Before diving into the bootcamp, those interested should attend one of three kick-off events throughout the state on Sept. 17, Sept. 24, or Oct. 1.
Pursuing a license isn’t right for everyone, said McCarthy: some kickoff attendees in Missouri realized while attending what actually suited them and stoked their passion was creating an ancillary cannabis business.
At LaunchPad in Newark on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., M4MM will provide an overview of the licensing process, address questions and concerns, preview the CBLB instructional curriculum, and introduce those teaching the program in Oct., including Dr. Terel Newton, an associate medical director who supports two clinics in M4MM’s home state of Florida, and Dr. Valerie Hepburn, a licensed emergency room physician in Jersey City who McCarthy said understands how the opioid crisis has affected people of color and how cannabis can be an alternative to opioids.
Two more kickoff events will be held at the Historic Trenton Masonic Temple on Sept. 24 and at NJ Cowork Street in Camden on Oct. 1. Tickets for the kickoff events cost $25 and can be found here.
Beyond the business basics, McCarthy puts her heart into the program. Sometimes, she says, interested people don’t just need the business support, sometimes, “they need love.”
“M4MM is creating a place of refuge for individuals dealing with the same type of challenges. They need opportunities and support,” she said. “It’s a challenging industry to try to get into. When you’re working a 9 to 5 and you’re thinking ‘my passion is really this, but I don’t know how to enter it,’ you need love. You need someone to tell you it’ll be okay.”
And whether or not they need love, many need money. M4MM will bring investors into the bootcamp who are interested in partnering with a minority-owned business to pitch to attendees, and some attendees will also have the opportunity to pitch their business plans to investors after the bootcamp has concluded at an event to be announced in the future.
The CBLB runs two Saturdays in a row on Oct. 19 and 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at LaunchPad in Newark. Tuition for the CBLB is $500 per team. It is open to everyone regardless of race or gender.s