It’s Black History Month, and we want to highlight the vital work of Black professionals, educators, activists, and legislators in our community.

It’s a sad fact that Black Americans are the group most damaged by America’s remaining anti-cannabis legislation.

According to the ACLU, Black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts. Even as a growing tide of legalization turns our favorite plant from an illegal drug into an acceptable source of medical relief and enjoyment, the lingering effects of America’s War on Drugs are still painfully apparent.

As more and more states legalize cannabis, the industry has a responsibility to create more Black leadership opportunities. That’s why, this Black History Month, we want to highlight the vital work of Black professionals, educators, activists, and legislators in the world of cannabis and beyond.

Colorado Senate Member James Coleman

Representative James Coleman has been a leading voice in the fight to reform Colorado’s cannabis legislation. Coleman has advocated for legislation focused on increasing Black participation in the world of legalized cannabis, including a bill that promotes social equity within the industry. Colorado’s cannabis market has provided a model for states joining the growing tide of decriminalization and legalization. Coleman’s legislative work offers a model for a nationwide push to create a more equitable world of legalized cannabis for all.

Julian and Darian from Be a Good Person

Julian Donaldson and Darian Simon co-founded their brand Be a Good Person to share a simple message. In a time when political and social tensions have led to an atmosphere of suspicion, Julian and Darian want to help people spread positivity with clothing, face masks, and even a mural decorated with their signature phrase. They hope that their brand will help people experience the simple power of human connection: building communities based on an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.

Black Cannabis Equity Initiative Founder John Bailey

Promoting Black excellence has always been a core value for Colorado business leader John Bailey. For years, he’s been a guiding force behind the Colorado Black Round Table. When the state legalized cannabis, he was inspired to go further, founding the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative. Under Bailey’s leadership, the organization was pushed to advocate for legislation to increase Black stakeholdership in the growing legal cannabis market and provide tools for the industry, including an equity report card businesses can use to improve their inclusivity.

Color of Cannabis Founder Sarah Woodson

Sarah Woodson was inspired to form the influential advocacy group Color of Cannabis by her desire to increase Black participation in Colorado’s booming cannabis marketplace. As the founder of consumption friendly art class Kush & Canvases, Woodson was acutely aware of the barriers facing Black entrepreneurs interested in entering the world of legalized cannabis. Color of Cannabis works to shape public policy to encourage buy-in within BIPOC communities, creating new funding pathways to help people of color start cannabis businesses of their own.

Lightshade VP of Compliance and Auditing Charrise Harris

As VP of Compliance and Auditing for Lightshade, Charrise Harris is responsible for coordinating and implementing compliance procedures, maintaining an internal audit program that allows Lightshade to operate effectively and equitably on a companywide scale. Harris’ role as a leading executive at one of Colorado’s top five cannabis companies represents the Black excellence within the cannabis community advocated by change leaders like James Coleman, John Bailey, and Sarah Woodson.

With only two states remailing where all uses of cannabis are illegal, the industry is experiencing an unprecedented boom. As Colorado moves to expand the state licensing procedure in 2021, we believe that these leaders will continue to provide critical support to an industry-wide push to increase BIPOC access to the profitable world of legalized cannabis within Colorado and beyond.