As the American economy prepares for a boom in the cannabis, hemp, and marijuana industry, there remains uncertainty about how people of color and Black people, in particular, will be integrated as owners in the burgeoning market. For many Black people who have suffered from excessive sentencing in the years of marijuana prohibition, it is mind-bogglingly ironic that the people who have suffered most appear to be being blocked out from participating in the new cannabis economy. Yolanda Rush of Otha George Hemp & Wellness, a new Black-owned CBD company said, “It is already a multi-billion dollar industry.”
Yolanda’s interest in the CBD or cannabidiol business came as a result of her work on her day-job. She went on to say that she noticed that right around the time that CBD legalization happened across the United States, law firms began launching CBD and Hemp practice groups. “People began flocking to the practice group[s] and began making a killing.”
Brookings Institute reported that before the new Farm Bill of 2018, “federal law did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants, all of which were effectively made illegal in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act and formally made illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act—the latter banned cannabis of any kind.” But the 2018 Farm Bill allowed for the manufacturing and production of hemp products but with the strict restriction that products couldn’t have a THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) level of higher than 0.3 percent. For context, THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the feeling of being ‘high’.
Yolanda went on to say many of the law firm’s jobs is to give guidance to manufacturing and trucking. “It was strictly White people and they were making a crapload of money. I started to recognize that Black people were being shut out of the marijuana industry. Black people needed to be there. We were late for the party.”
Entering into the CBD marketplace was not only business for Yolanda, it was personal. The interview took a more somber tone when she revealed, “Personally, my father passed in 2014.” Chemo wasn’t working well for him and the doctors eventually green-lit marijuana. “He said it made him feel better,” she said. “My dad’s name is George Otha, so I flipped it around and named my company after my father.”
Not only did her father use it to help him through his cancer diagnosis, but Yolanda also added, “I had family who used it socially.” We shared a laugh about how social use of marijuana is very common in the African American community, yet it was a source of relentless criminalization until more recently.
“I started doing my own research. I know about this personally and professionally. This is a billion-dollar industry,” said Yolanda. “People were getting locked up for years. This plant has been around for thousands and thousands of years. The government and states are involved now and they are making a lot of money.”
The obvious interest of the government is the tax revenue that will continue to line the coffers of states across the country. The estimated tax revenue for marijuana in California alone in 2018 was $300 million, so collecting these taxes could help many states remain solvent even through lean times.
Yolanda’s 5 Key Steps to Starting a CBD Business
- Research the regulations around your state and stay up to date with regulations.
- Write a business plan and decide what products you are going to sell.
- Get licensed and register with the State Corporation Commission.
- To sell CBD you don’t need a marijuana license. But you need to register with your state and let them know what you are selling.
- Get a business bank account.
- This can be hard because banks don’t want to do it. You need a bank that is FDIC insured and caters to CBD businesses. The fees are kind of high.
- Pick a location for your business.
- There are some rules around zoning like being near schools and places of worship. If you are not doing a brick and mortar, you can open an online business.
Otha George Hemp & Wellness has a host of products on their website such as full-spectrum CBD oil, CBD bath bombs, CBD topicals to treat inflammation of joints and muscles, and also CBD gummies. They even have a line of CBD honey and pre-rolled cigarettes. “All of our products have 0.3% THC or less.”
It appears that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has put a law on the table to legalize recreational marijuana and Yolanda believes that this pending legislation provides an opportunity for BIPOC. “A lot of Black and Brown people see this as reparations and a way to build wealth. We are still being shut out of conversations and that needs to change.”
Yolanda emphasizes the importance of staying abreast of the rapidly changing laws. “Those laws change sometimes weekly and daily. If we stay on top of the laws and regulations then there is a lot of money to be made.” As a final note, Yolanda says that one can enter the CBD market with as small as a $5,000-$10,000 investment, but leaves this caveat, “My greatest expense thus far has been attorney fees. It’s no joke.”
Learn more and buy CBD products at Otha George Hemp & Wellness, LLC www.othageorge.com