Three Oaklanders are helping people of color break into the rapidly-growing cannabis industry by teaching underground distributors how to enter the legal market.
The Hood Incubator was started last year by co-founders Lanese Martin, Ebele Ifedigbo and Biseat Horning as an organization devoted to promoting business ownership for communities of color that have been historically targeted by the War on Drugs.
“Our work dropped out of an orientation towards racial and economic justice, especially when looking at who’s actually getting ahead in the new legal (cannabis) framework,” Ifedigbo told the Post.
“Looking at Oakland in particular, 80 to 90 percent of cannabis arrests and convictions have been Black people,” Ifedigbo said, whereas white Oaklanders made up only 4 percent of arrests.
Through the organization’s pre-seed accelerator program, 10 selected fellows go through four months of business development classes, legal compliance and regulations trainings, and even agriculture education seminars.
Many of those participating in the program may already have been operating in the underground cannabis industry and supplying a demand long before it was legalized.
“At the end of the cohort, fellows have all the things they need to be ready for a traditional pitch,” including a business model, three-year financial projections and a pitch presentation, said co-founder Martin.
The goal is for entrepreneurs of color to then more easily secure business investments, which disproportionately favor white entrepreneurs in the U.S.
According to a report released by CB Insights in 2010, 87 percent of venture capital-funded startup founders in the U.S. are white, whereas 13 percent are people of color. Less than 1 percent of founders are Black.
Oakland already made national history last year when it passed a groundbreaking Equity Permit program, introduced by Councilmember Desley Brooks, as a means of reparations for longtime Oaklanders who have been impacted by the War on Drugs.
And this week, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan prohibiting hiring discrimination for city jobs based on past non-work related cannabis use.
According to Martin, while these policies are essential, people also need ground level support from community organizations to help access financial opportunities, real estate and other contracts needed for startups.
The Hood Incubator also takes on community development work by hosting monthly community meetings, know your rights sessions, and cannabis health and wellness education classes.
“It looks different from what the city can do,” Martin said.
The Hood Incubator started its first annual cohort in January of this year and will be hosting another four-month class in early 2018.
The organization is currently fundraising and donations can be made here.
Monthly member meetings are held at the East Bay Cannabis Community Center located at 2700 International Blvd. in Oakland.
Visit hoodincubator.org to become a free member and for more information about the services the organization provides.