Women of color have emerged as leaders in the cannabis industry, reclaiming power from a substance that has contributed to the mass incarceration of their communities. This is powerful.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and 14 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have legalized cannabis for recreational use for people over 21 years old.
Within those states, white entrepreneurs have surfaced rapidly. In 2017, a Marijuana Business Daily survey reported that 81 percent of people starting cannabis firms identify as white.
Several women of color are disrupting this pattern, leading the charge on diversifying the industry and empowering communities of color with new opportunities and outlooks for the future. Q. Nicole McNair, a cannabis entrepreneur, is one of them.
McNair owns WH Farms, a Black woman owned hemp cultivation business that provides incredible opportunities for aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs to go from hopeful hobbyists to revenue-generating CEO’s of their own hemp empires.
You went from real estate investor to cannabis entrepreneur with your own farm. What ignited your fire to step in the CBD industry?
What sparked the interest was my own dependency on CBD. In 2013 I was diagnosed with delayed PTSD after the death of my father. His transition triggered some trauma that I experienced in my childhood that really left it difficult for me to cope with as an entrepreneur. I really was just searching for something that could give me back a sense of normalcy. So, when I went to therapy my therapist suggested setting up a treatment plan which would have included a lot of opioids just to be calm, happy, or just to be able to function. I just said to myself I don’t want to be on a happy pill. I really wanted something more plant based and natural.
At the time, cannabis was really open on the medicinal side, it was medicinally legal in many markets so I was able to get a medical card. As a result, I was introduced to some lingual oils and gummies that were infused with CBD that really helped. At this point I became curious about how I could help other people in this space. How can I become a part of it? Because of my real estate background, I love assets, I love land, I love business land that makes money. Looking for opportunities to get involved with the industry was the perfect marriage. One thing about my personality is that regardless of what I have ever done, I truly believe in transferable skills. I’ll take the core of everything that I have done and I will re-apply it over and over again in other businesses.
Entering this space, I wanted to monetize an asset like land, growing the hemp and create opportunities for other business owners to have CBD infused products and be a part of the growth of the industry. Not just a consumer, but truly being able to be involved on an ownership side so that they could benefit and ride the wave of this growing market in the way so many other people are.
You talked about ownership. You own WH Farms. Tell me about your farm and what makes it different from others.
Our Farm is in eastern North Carolina near New Bern in Beaufort County. The reason why this farmland is special is because it was once commissioned by the Tuscarora Indians way before this country was colonized. The Tuscarora Indians were known for gathering hemp. That is an area historically known to cultivate hemp for hundreds of years. My farmers are legacy farmers, these are individuals who have been farming. It’s a generational skill that’s been passed down along with generational land.
These are African American farmers and farm owners that have been farming for hundreds of years with congressional letters of recommendations because of their farming practices. Again, a restoration of black excellence in an area that has somewhat been forgotten about because black farmers had really become a forgotten series or species of our American worker and labor force. We were able to marry all of that with this farm and bring in that legacy farmer relationship. Our farmer’s grandmother is a Tuscarora Indians just to go to the depth of the heritage that we offer.
We have organic farming practices and we grow premium cannabis, premium industrial hemp that has less than .3% THC, so it’s not marijuana and not illegal. It is legal federally and with that plant we can extract high quality of CBD from it for our kid owners and people who white label with us.
People have said cannabis is a gateway drug. Can you dispel some of the myths with me about cannabis and speak to some of its benefits?
One of the myths you hear is that the components of cannabis are intoxicants. The components of cannabis are called cannabinoids which is something our bodies respond to very well. The same way we have a digestive system and a nervous system, we also have an endocannabinoid system, so when we consume cannabis sativa it could help heal neuropathic pains, anxiety, acne, reduction of inflammation, and pain relief. It has so many huge natural benefits. I don’t think it’s something that is said enough.
CBD and THC are not one in the same because CBD does not have the psychoactive quality that THC offers. Most people think of cannabis as you getting high, stoned, or up-up and away in your brain.
CBD is an adaptogen that helps your body recover faster, that’s why we have seen the NFL, NBA, and NHL removing cannabis testing from its drug policy this year because they understand key performing athletes, top tier athletes, are using this plant for their recovery and it no longer can just be dismissed.
What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?
The cannabis sativa plant is the scientific name for the cannabis plant. It grows in two species, Hemp Species or the Marijuana Species. The Hemp species has less than 0.3% THC that is the test by which the United States government governs or determines whether or not its marijuana at the THC level. Hemp has over 50,000 commercial uses, it’s been around since the beginning of time. We use it in our fiber, clothing, paper, car components, and construction materials etc.
When it has over 0.3% THC then it is considered Marijuana. The Marijuana that we are a customed to seeing or hearing about on TV has about 30 to 40 percent THC. Same appearing plant, it’s just the chemical composition is different which determines if it is a Hemp or Marijuana plant. All of our CBD is derived from Hemp plants.
Talk to me about the legality of cannabis and why black people should take stake in it.
Hemp is federally legal. Hemp should be taking out the Marijuana conversation. I think those apart of the black community who have family members serving time because of the use of this plant or the distribution of this plant, deserve a seat at the front of the table with equity, stake, true ownership, with a voice and the ability to see our socioeconomic class change. It was our communities and families that were torn apart when the government decided to heavily criminalize it.
Now that they have laxed there criminalization and decided that this one species has medicinal qualities, we as black and brown people need to be at the front of this conversation. We owe it to those behind bars because they took the risk, they developed the market research, they created this audience of users that will now become legal consumers. Those who bore the risk look like me and you, so why not make sure we are at the front of the table.
I have a brother who is serving a sentence so for me it’s very personal. My mom has not seen her brother in 17 years. We buried a sibling and he could not come to the funeral because of a plant that I’m now able to grow thousands of pounds of on multiple acres throughout the year.
Talk to me about the white label service you provide and what it entails?
We offer both beauty and wellness products in our white labeling package: a body butter, shea, bath bomb, pain bomb, hair or beard oil, gummies and tinctures. It allows that person to not just depend on one unique custom product to bring to market, but rather create a suite of products where they don’t have to make everything from scratch. They are able to launch and begin to develop their brand. We also have branding and marketing label services to help set them apart.
Our mission is seed to shelf!
What’s included in your CBD Launch Kit?
The CBD Launch Kit is a white label solution for those interested in creating their own CBD infused product that they plan to bring to market. It also has over 2 dozen lessons that go over business ownership, the anatomy of the plant, the uses of cannabis and the benefits of CBD. The kit also goes over the legality, regulatory matters as it relates to building the business.