First exhibition for black cannabis entrepreneurs in New Orleans | Business ap

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Peter Labat and his wife Venia are a little amused, but also excited to be part of a group of roughly 2,000 budding marijuana entrepreneurs who will be attending the first Black CannaCon at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in late November .

Ever since they started their business in New Orleans East last year, they were surprised that by far the hottest product from The Labat Wood Shop was their custom joint rolling trays. So you look forward to exhibiting at the fair and learning about one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

“The idea of ​​going to a cannabis fair still seems kind of fantastic to me, almost like Disney World,” said Peter Labat. “Here in New Orleans, the cannabis culture isn’t as strong compared to places like Las Vegas or California, where it’s been completely legal for a while. So to learn something about pharmacies, cultivation and distribution – it’s a whole new world. “

Louisiana’s cannabis laws were among the most restrictive in the country, even for medicinal purposes, though recent changes have eased things up. In June, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a lifting of the bans on whole flowers and smoking, restrictions that made the medical marijuana business unprofitable. This will come into effect early next year.

The idea for a convention and expo exclusively aimed at black cannabis professionals came to Kristi Price, editor of Black CannaBusiness Magazine, last November when an informal online meeting she organized attracted more than 600 participants, who eventually came after Called a larger, face-to-face event to continue the conversation, she said.

Price, a longtime marketing executive who had worked for brands like Nike, Red Bull, and Guinness for the past two decades, founded her Houston-based media company in 2019, partly with the idea of ​​addressing what she saw as deep inequality in style and Way the cannabis industry developed.

“There are no business-to-business media or conferences targeting people of color in this area, and people of color have very different experiences with the facility, both in terms of the criminal justice system and from a diversity and perspective Inclusion. ”She said.

In fact, inequality is well established in the criminal justice system and has continued even as the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis has spread.

A study published last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, which covered all 50 states (and the District of Columbia), found that arrests for possession of marijuana spanned the eight years to 2018 compared to an earlier study by the ACLU between 2002 and 2010 actually increased.

Recently, not only have arrests increased, but the racial differences in these arrests have remained the same: “On average, a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though blacks and whites” are similar to marijuana Consume installments, ”the study found.

At the same time, black entrepreneurs have lagged behind their white counterparts as the cannabis market is booming. A survey by Marijuana Business Daily in late 2017 found that only 4.3% of cannabis company owners and founders were African American.

This participation has hardly changed in the last five years. In December, the US House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which contains a number of measures designed to help redress the imbalance. This includes clearing criminal records that prevent people from getting into the cannabis business. It also provides for provisions that put aside cannabis cultivation concessions and pharmacies for black owners, and calls for the establishment of a special trust funded by the cannabis tax to get startups off the ground. It has yet to be passed by the Senate.

These and other topics will be discussed at Black CannaCon by speakers including Wanda James, a former naval officer, senior Fortune 100 insurance company executive and economic adviser to former President Barack Obama. James and her husband founded the first African American-owned cannabis pharmacy in the United States

In addition to being the CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary in Denver and managing partner of the Cannabis Global Initiative, James is a longtime political campaigner for cannabis legalization and has led two successful US Congressional campaigns in her home state of Colorado.

Price, who is from Houma and is a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, said the expo program will cover topics such as raising and growing capital, politics, technology and wellness topics.

“Cannabis as a medicine is huge in the black community,” Price says, although she notes that despite advances made in areas of particular concern to the black community such as sickle cell anemia and hypertension, there is still a huge gap in our knowledge.

“It used to be that if you tell Grandma you’re in the cannabis business, she’ll get your bail, so that’s part of the job we have to do,” she said.

To this end, one of the keynote speakers at Black CannaCon will be Dr. Chanda Macias, who was Queen Zulu last year and has been a missionary for cannabis and its medicinal uses in Louisiana for a decade and a half.

Labat, the woodworker who found himself in an industry that is growing about 17% a year in the U.S. and that is forecast to reach $ 30 billion by 2025, said he’s excited about the progress in normalizing the business.

“It will be nice to connect with cannabis users who are entrepreneurs, have children, have well-paid jobs, and are responsible adults who happen to use cannabis,” he said. “It’s really just a normal part of lifestyle now and a good business opportunity.”

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