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'Cannabis Manifesto' aims to be a resource for Black and Brown entrepreneurs

Cannabis Equity Manifesto
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Dr. Fred McKinney (right), founder of BJM solutions, an economic advisory firm based in Trumbull, speaks at a press conference announcing the creation of the Alliance for Cannabis Equity, which aims to be a resource for Black and Brown entrepreneurs in the field of cannabis around Connecticut. Aaron Johnson of the Narrative Project sits behind him. “If we’re serious about social equity in this industry, we gotta work at. It just doesn’t happen, just because you say it, he said.

Fred McKinney recalls a day in 1973 when he and his brother were stopped by police and charged with possession of a marijuana joint. After spending a weekend in a precinct, he considers himself lucky for having a lawyer, going to trial, and getting a second chance.

“But if we hadn't had that chance, who knows where my life would have gone?” said McKinney. “A lot of people didn't get a chance after they were arrested for cannabis. I look at literally the millions of Americans who have been negatively impacted by cannabis since 1973.”

Now, McKinney runs an economic consulting firm and he helped publish a 92-page document and website that offers an overview of how communities can enter Connecticut’s cannabis industry. The document was designed in collaboration with Connecticut business incubator and the state’s largest workforce development agency, which make up The Alliance for Cannabis Equity.

It’s a tool for questions cannabis entrepreneurs may have, as well as workers.

Cannabis Equity Manifesto
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Kebra Smith-Bolden (right), a medical marijuana entrepreneur and the founder of a medical cannabis business in New Haven, listens during a presentation on the the creation of the Alliance for Cannabis Equity, which aims to be a resource for Black and Brown entrepreneurs in the field of cannabis around Connecticut.

Entrepreneur Kebra Smith-Bolden said a guide like this could help many people like herself. Smith-Bolden founded a medical cannabis business in Connecticut in 2017. She’s a trained registered nurse and said she went through several certifications to be considered legitimate in the industry.

“So it was important for me as a black woman to show that I was educated in cannabis,” said Smith-Bolden. “I went to a 12-course program in Massachusetts and studied cannabis before they were even really doing that. I did things to legitimize myself.”

Smith-Bolden is now hoping to obtain a state license for a new adult-use cannabis business she recently started.

State law says cannabis jobs and businesses must be created with workers and business owners who live and work in places affected most by the War on Drugs. The Cannabis Manifesto can be found at https://www.acect.org/.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.
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