Black Investors Prep for Medical Marijuana Business

by: Kamau High Managing Editor, the AFRO khigh@afro.com
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Sterling Crockett is a part owner of GTI Maryland, a medical cannabis company looking to set up shop in Maryland. (Courtesy Photo)

A group of Maryland-based Black investors are pooling their money in order to invest in one of the many medicinal marijuana businesses hoping to get approval from the state of Maryland in the coming months.

The group, made up of 18 African American CEOs, is investing in Green Thumbs Industries, Maryland, a division of Illinois-based Green Thumbs Industries. Sterling Crockett, a general manager and part owner of the company, assembled the investors.  The parent company currently operates three medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois. Illinois patients were able to begin buying medicinal marijuana in late 2015 and the number of participants is currently in the thousands.

In Maryland, GTI purchased 21 acres of land near Hagerstown. “We picked Washington County, because we have a formula we use where we focus on markets that are developing, have high unemployment and are affected by mass incarceration. They tend to go to bat for us to the extent we need them to,” said Pete Kadens, CEO, GTI Maryland, in an interview with the AFRO.

The five county commissioners of Washington County, all Republicans, passed a resolution unanimously last year to support GTI Maryland’s plans and approved site plans for the proposed warehouse which will store the medicinal cannabis. GTI Maryland currently expects to have about 100 jobs if the project is approved.

Maryland’s General Assembly originally passed legislation allowing the sale of medicinal cannabis in 2013. The legislation was re-visited in 2014 and expanded to allow up to 15 companies to grow marijuana and 94 dispensaries to operate in the state.

There have been several delays in issuing licenses to businesses, partly due to a flood of applications to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which must approve businesses. Licenses are now expected by the end of the summer with patients receiving their medicine at some point in 2017, said Kadens.

GTI Maryland brought in Crockett to bring on more African American investors. According to Kadens, two-thirds of GTI Maryland’s investors are from Maryland and a third of those are African American.

“It’s an opportunity to do well while doing good. A lot of patients are in need of safer alternatives medically,” said Crockett. “My daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer. We saw first hand how this could help that process.”

A group of 18 African American CEOs invested over six figures into the company. Among them is Gerald Boyd Sr., CEO of DB Consulting based in Silver Spring, MD. Boyd is on GTI Maryland’s board of directors, he said in an interview.

GTI Maryland hopes that African Americans, who have been heavily affected by marijuana laws, will support their efforts. “The African American community has been so touched in a bad way with marijuana related issues,” said Kadens. “The Center for Disease Control will tell you Blacks and Whites use marijuana in the same percentages. However, African Americans are 4.6 times more likely to be incarcerated for it. We are sick and tired of mass incarceration and it’s a fight worth fighting for.”

“In addition, it could wake up the African American community to the benefits of investing and getting involved in this space and get them talking to their legislators.”

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