As more and more states begin to legalize recreational cannabis and expand the medical marijuana sector, many Americans are taking advantage of new entrepreneurial and business opportunities to cash in on the revenue. However, despite the new legal market, many Black entrepreneurs and professionals have struggled to get their start within the industry that continues to be dominated by white men. One Maryland man created a new platform aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion within the state’s emerging cannabis market.
Kevin Ford is the CEO of Uplift Maryland, a new platform to provide training and resources for Black people looking to get into the medical marijuana sector. Ford says he got the idea after exploring medical markets in other legalized states and his own experience in using medical marijuana. “While I was studying marketing in college, I took an interest in the medical cannabis markets in California and Colorado. When the market began to open up in D.C., I watched it closely in hopes that I’d have an opportunity to mix my entrepreneurial spirit with cannabis in a legal, medical market in Maryland,” says Ford in an email interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“Being a medical patient myself, I saw a void in the market for a clear source of information. I realized how complicated it could be to navigate the registration and certification process. With countless stigmas surrounding cannabis, I wanted to create a community where people are supplied with education, tools, and economic resources to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams in this very profitable industry. I also wanted to redefine a commodity that is still deemed illegal and incarcerates so many Black men, and turn it into a positive for our community by providing [an] education of opportunity, especially to those who have been marginalized by oppressive and unjust drug policies.”
Ford hopes to help more marginalized voices become a part of the rapidly growing industry and hopes to expand its services as the state considers full legalization like nearby Washington D.C. “Unfortunately, with Maryland being a closed market state, we are unable to provide the full services we seek to offer at Uplift. The only way to overcome these issues is to create more opportunities or relocate to an area where that opportunity exists,” he added.
“My team and I spent this year lobbying in Maryland to put ourselves at the forefront of these conversations. That way, people who benefit from cannabis or have been oppressed by unjust drug policies can be included in these crucial conversations of legalization.”