Established in 1976, Black History Month provides a welcome, vital opportunity to engage with the story of our nation through the eyes of Black Americans.
Offering us a chance to uplift the heroes and leaders who have paved the way for progress, Black History Month also calls upon us to grapple with the centuries of systemic racism that necessitated such bravery.
Predating the criminalization of cannabis itself, the first commercially cultivated hemp in the US was grown by enslaved African people for the benefit of white colonists. In time, an increasing series of ever-stricter laws would use cannabis—and later, crack cocaine—as a straw man to oppress Mexican immigrants and Black Americans.
Culminating in America’s infamous War on Drugs campaign, the past 50 years has seen skyrocketing incarceration rates headlined by disproportionate detainment, arrest and conviction rates for minorities. However, in the wake of a legalization revolution for cannabis—kicked off in 1996 when California’s landmark Prop 215 was approved by voters, legalizing medical marijuana—a renewed focus on restorative justice has dovetailed with the arrival of cannabis a major new industry.
Let’s celebrate this welcome change by looking at five Black cannabis industry leaders working to create a more equitable industry from within.
CEO & Chairman of The Board, The Parent Company
It doesn’t get much more high profile than serving as CEO of California’s leading consumer-focused, vertically integrated cannabis company, but Troy Datcher thrives in the spotlight. He sees plenty of it as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of The Parent Company, which boasts big brands including Jay-Z’s Monogram and Caliva Dispensary and Delivery within its robust portfolio. Datcher also supports The Parent Company’s mission to “disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color” with a social equity ventures fund established with $10 million of initial funding.
Founder & CEO, MXXN
As a CPG and alcohol industry veteran, as well as a cannabis entrepreneur, innovator and advocate, Darnell Smith brings both experience and passion to the industry. He’s committed to creating a more equitable and diverse space, working with vendors, supply partners and organizations that share his same mission. Smith is the founder and CEO of MXXN, a brand of cannabis-infused non-alcoholic spirits that is revolutionizing modern cocktail culture and upending the booze and marijuana industries. MXXN is the first product released by MOJO Ventures, a division of the digital and creative agency MOJO that he created and which has worked closely with Pepsico, Barcardi’s Incubation group, Procter & Gamble Ventures and other clients.
Disappointed by the diversity issues she observed taking root in mainstream cannabis culture, Mary Pryor co-founded Cannaclusive in 2017 to facilitate fair representation of minority cannabis consumers by offering free resources including a stock photography gallery dedicated to diversity. Another resource, InclusiveBase, provides a directory of BIPOC-owned and operated cannabis companies across the globe. In 2020, Pryor spearheaded The Accountability List and founded Cannabis For Black Lives (CfBL). In 2021, Pryor was the recipient of the CLIO Cannabis Impact Award and presently counts a role as advisor to The Parent Company among her myriad duties and projects.
CEO, MAKR House
Chairman of the Board & Executive Director of Supernova Women
At the rate Amber E. Senter is going, she’s going to need a full-length book to list all her accomplishments. As of now, Senter’s impressive credentials include more than two decades of marketing and project management experience. She’s also the founder and CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company, where she heads fundraising, supply chain management, government relations, strategy, product development and marketing. Senter is also co-founder, chair and executive director of Supernova Women, formed in 2015 to empower people of color to become self-sufficient cannabis industry shareholders. Furthermore, during her tenure as the former chief operations officer of a Bay Area dispensary, she obtained the first onsite consumption permit issued by the City of Oakland.
Co-Founder & CEO, Presidential Cannabis Co.
Everett Smith had hoops dreams that blossomed into a thriving career in the cannabis industry. After finishing his basketball career in Europe, Smith launched Los Angeles-based Presidential RX in 2012. Today, he oversees one of the largest infused flower cannabis companies—as well as the third largest pre-roll brand—in California, with products available in some 400 stores across the state. Now proudly shelved at powerhouse dispensaries such as MedMen and Sherbinskis, Smith’s Presidential is a success story to overshadow even the most impressive of half-court heaves.