When it comes to OGs of the long and challenging battle for social equity, The Hood Incubator stands out as an essential part of the conversation.
“We know that the cannabis community is an under-tapped political power, as evidenced by how we’ve been seeing cannabis sweep the nation. I envision 2024, 2030 and beyond, the cannabis community can start being a voting block to decide some things.Lanese Martin
There are many organizations out there focused on helping Black and Brown people learn how to prosper in the legal cannabis industry. But few organizations have the lobbying power or creative approach to legislation compared to what The Hood Incubator has harvested since launching in 2017.
Five years later, they are still finding new ways to empower US communities most harmed by the racist and unjust criminalization of the War on Drugs. Keep reading to learn how they use their knowledge, influence, and endurance to help undo the Drug War’s lasting harm and enable a greener future for the entire industry.
What does the Hood Incubator do?
The Hood Incubator is a non-profit organization that aims to make success more universally equitable for Black and Brown folks in the legal weed industry. The incubator was founded by Oakland natives Lanese Martin, Ebele Ifedigbo, and Biseat Horning.
They saw that the cannabis industry was and still is mad homogeneous and dominated by white males, and basically said ‘Nah, we won’t stand for this, someone has to do something.’
They created The Hood Incubator with the hopes of nurturing financial success for the Black and Brown pioneers of the cannabis market.
All while asking some of cannabis’ most important questions like: Shouldn’t the prosperity of the legal industry be accessible to those who’ve paid the highest prices to make it all possible?
The organization helps cannabis entrepreneurs and companies learn everything about the legal game from getting licensed, to finding facilities, to education around the plant. and is built on three main pillars:
- building a movement
- community education
- economic development
All of the essential operations of running a cannabis business are taught through their Pre-Seed Business Accelerator.
Creating a new lane
The Hood Incubator’s founders all had different entry points into the legal cannabis business. But all three recognized early that they didn’t want to start on the plant-touching side of things.
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Since they all saw a shared passion for helping other minorities that did want to breed, cultivate, and sell cannabis, the idea of being the incubator for others clicked instantly.
“Well, maybe I don’t need to be a permit holder,” thought co-founder Lanes Martin. “But there are people that want to be and should be permitted. They’re going to need some help on the economic development front, business acceleration, policy advocacy, [and] on the voter power movement building,” says Martin during a Zoom call.
Currently, the Hood Incubator’s business accelerator is on hiatus, but while Martin, Ifedigbo, and Horning work on the next iteration of their vision, they’re looking for new allies in their fight against an unjust industry.
One example of an organization they partner with is Uptima Cooperative, which runs a series of Uptima Business Bootcamps that aim to help entrepreneurs get started.
“We partner with Uptima Business Bootcamp to deliver the bulk of the business education,” says Martin. “We bring key cannabis influencers and mentors to help create a directory of information for folks,” they explain.
THI’s impact on the cannabis industry
The Hood Incubator has some huge wins on their record showing that the organization on the right track towards their mission.
For one, they have led 30-plus graduates through their Pre-Seed Accelerator who have gone on to create successful cannabis companies.
Then there is the impact of their advocacy. Oakland’s Cannabis Equity Program, as well as lobbying to make changes to the Equity Tax Rebate are two of their biggest wins so far.
And when asked about their proudest accomplishments, Lanese says, “[The Hood Incubator is] really proud of a lot of the work we’ve done locally with Oakland’s equity program. We have the first Equity Tax Rebate program, which connects a business’ profitability to their community engagement and reinvestment in their neighborhood.”
The Hood Incubator also helped increase the social equity budget in Governor Gavin Newsom’s California Comeback Plan.
Lanese continues, “On the state level, The Hood Incubator, along with other organizations, noticed the [California] budget had 126 million [dollars] set aside for cannabis regulation enforcement, and 15 million [dollars] set aside for equity programs. We want some parity in funding, the Drug War is over, we need it to be documented in the budget. We didn’t get 126 million, but we got that 15 million increased to 50 million.”
What’s next for the Hood Incubator?
In addition to bringing back their business accelerator, in 2022, The Hood Incubator will be launching The Cannabis Justice Policy Platform. This new platform will aim to design a national social equity program that each state can use as a playbook as they legalize.
The playbook includes community reinvestment and the creation of a fair playing field in the cannabis game. And (in case you were wondering) most of the same steps they recommend for states would also apply if cannabis is legalized on the federal level.
The platform also aims to empower the cannabis community on a national political level.
Martin explains, “We know that the cannabis community is an under-tapped political power, as evidenced by how we’ve been seeing cannabis sweep the nation. I envision 2024, 2030 and beyond, the cannabis community can start being a voting block to decide some things. The Cannabis Justice Platform can help us assess policies that are coming out, like the Schumer bill, the Safe Banking Act, [and] the MORE Act.”
The Hood Incubator has also rolled out a Cannabis Justice Survey to see what people really care about. The data will help establish what that platform should look like for a representative who is interested in building around the cannabis community’s demands,
“We won’t really solidify the Cannabis Justice Platform until we have at least 1,000 respondents from across the country take the survey,” says Martin of their desire to “get an idea about what people care about.”
“I have ideas,” says Martin. “I’m able to see things. (But) the Cannabis Justice Survey is check-in for clarification. But, we want to check and clarify that what we think we’ve heard is accurate.”
Whatever the group works on next, we’re sure it will build on their lasting reputation as a powerhouse in the cannabis industry.
The fight for social equity in cannabis will be long and hard. But we’re here for the get-back, I promise.