As cannabis policy reform measures taking hold across the country provide new economic opportunities, entrepreneurs from all walks of life are working to make a place for themselves in the regulated marijuana industry. But so far, the ownership of businesses in the cannabis industry has failed to reflect the communities in which they operate. Latinos are included in this group, as many Hispanic cannabis entrepreneurs working to find their niche within the legal industry.
The National Hispanic Cannabis Council, an industry group representing Latinos in the legal marijuana industry, revealed in a recent report that Hispanics make up only 5.7% of cannabis business owners. The US Census Bureau data shows the demographic group accounts for about 19% of the country’s population. Challenges business owners face include strict regulations and licensing requirements coupled with a shortage of investment funding for new cannabis ventures. But despite the obstacles, it is possible to launch a fledgling marijuana business in emerging markets.
In Albuquerque, where state lawmakers passed the Cannabis Regulation Act in 2021, a group of five middle school teachers celebrating happy hour decided late last year to leave their teaching positions and band together to form a cannabis dispensary. Of the five entrepreneurs—Mary Jean García, Mallory García, Jamie Munsey, Gina Mares and Laura Legarda—only one is still teaching. The five women say that they sold assets and withdrew cash from retirement funds to launch La Tiendita de Motita, a licensed cannabis dispensary that opened in July.
With the new shop, the five women behind La Tiendita hope to address the stigma still associated with cannabis, particularly in the Hispanic community. They also want to share the healing properties of the plant, especially with the older generation of potential cannabis consumers.
“I do feel like we were raised being taught weed is bad,” Mallory García told Axios.
The new business owners are taking advantage of provisions of the state’s recreational marijuana legalization statute that assist Hispanic cannabis entrepreneurs with limited funding and resources to enter the regulated marijuana industry. Low-cost loans are available for micro producers, micro manufacturers and micro retailers in New Mexico, while license fees for micro cultivators growing up to 200 plants can be obtained for a flat fee of only $1,000. Other measures in the legislation permit retail cannabis business licensees to maintain other operations including cannabis production, manufacturing and courier services.
“That is a game changer,” Martínez said.
A Wealth of Opportunities for Hispanics and Cannabis
The challenges faced by the owners of La Tiendita aren’t unique. As previously mentioned above, a report from the National Hispanic Cannabis Council released late last year found that only 5.7% of regulated marijuana businesses have Hispanic ownership. The National Hispanic Cannabis Council notes that national data on the industry is not compiled by the federal government because of the continuing illegality of marijuana under federal law. The report also details “the range of barriers Hispanics face at every level of government, including high costs of entry and access to business licenses.”
“The report findings reveal a strong need to support Hispanics interested in the cannabis industry with financing (and the necessary financial education), networking, and coaching, to empower Hispanics and help them clear regulatory hurdles.” Antonio Valdez, the executive director of the National Hispanic Cannabis Council, said in a statement from the industry group. “The implication of the research validates our efforts to provide tools for Hispanics interested in the legal cannabis industry. We’re currently building out resources for these Hispanic entrepreneurs around financial preparedness and industry guidance.”
Despite the challenges, the report found a wealth of opportunities for Hispanic cannabis entrepreneurs interested in participating in the regulated industry. In addition to owning a business, the report notes that companies operating in the industry create jobs throughout the supply chain, from growers and manufacturers and retailers. A survey of a diverse sample of Hispanics active in the US cannabis industry commissioned by the National Hispanic Cannabis Council revealed that there are many ways to promote access to entrepreneurship and business opportunities for Hispanics in the industry.
“Opportunities abound in the adult-use and medical segments of the industry across the states, and Hispanic respondents interviewed remain optimistic about their ability to pursue them,” Valdez said. “In that regard, social equity programs are popular and are expected to have a positive impact for Hispanics, but they’re not perceived as the most important resource needed by Hispanics.”
The National Hispanic Council noted that the regulated cannabis market in the US is expected to reach $30 billion annually by 2024. The group was founded last year by a group of companies in the cannabis industry including Cresco Labs, Flora & Forge, Moxie, Trulieve, Vicente Sederberg LLP, Green Thumb Industries, Eaze, Curio Wellness, Pyramid and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP.