Four new directors are joining the leadership of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, the organization that’s been at the forefront of providing minority stakeholders a seat at the table in the ongoing national discussion on cannabis legalization.
Three of the new directors are based in California.
The group is made up of Sherbinskis founder Mario Guzman, WeedMaps Director of Emerging Marketplaces Cedric Haynes, Willie Mack, a brand marketing executive and co-founder of Think BIG and Frank White; and Kika Keith, founder and CEO of Life Development Group, and co-founder and president of Social Equity Owners and Workers Association. Locally, Keith has a large voice in the social equity discussion.
MCBA’s board also elected Kaliko Castille, co-founder of ThndrStrm Strategies, as its president and frequent L.A. Weekly social equity commentator Jazmin Aguiar, president of The Working Group as vice-president.
We spoke with Guzman about using his credibility as an entrepreneur and breeder to help the cause.
“Couldn’t be more honored and excited,” Guzman said of his new place in the national conversation. “I’m really just drawing on my experience, you know, being there from the early 2000s in the medical marijuana movement and now seeking to go national.”
He said a big part of it for him is attempting to be a breath of fresh air representing minorities and growers in an industry that is continuing to trend more and more corporate.
“I started in the garage in San Francisco and I’ve been able to transition into the fully regulated market and I want to be an example for other minorities, you know, not just minorities, but women that are coming up in the space, LGBTQ people that are coming into the space, all people of color. That way, when they’re coming up, and they’re growing their company, they’re seeing people like me that are like them, and I’m able to sit across from investors that are people of color and people that understand where they’re coming from, and let them know the pitfalls.”
Guzman says actually making the connection between MCBA and more stakeholders at the grassroots level is definitely part of the plan. He believes their voice is critical to perfecting a message that’s already helped make social equity a keystone of the federal cannabis legalization conversation and actions from state to state.
“Almost 40% of the people that are part of the MCBA, our members, are young entrepreneurs that are coming into this space,” Guzman said. “So what I’m excited about is just opening up discussions and just the information that we have available on our site that people are going to be able to use and they’re going to be able to draw on resources that are actually going to help their company grow.”
In a sense, Sherbinskis is one of the most tangible representations of what MCBA hopes a lot of its membership will achieve. A successful minority legacy operator that was able to protect his worth in the process of going legal. We asked Guzman what it’s like to come into it from that angle?
“Again, it’s an honor. I really never imagined myself being in a position like this, but I think as I get older and as I realized, you know, I’ve put almost two decades into this into this space and you know, partnered with a plant,” Guzman said.
He added he was just standing on the shoulders of the many activists who helped get cannabis this far, but he’s excited to pay his dues on this new policy side of the process just as he did over the last two decades to get his brand where it’s at.
“This industry was primarily built by Caucasians, not minorities in the early days. And I was part of that in the early days as well and I know what it’s like to be kind of closed out in certain circles,” Guzman said. “It’s kind of a passion of mine to help bridge that gap and just help minorities not be left out of certain discussions or opportunities just because of the colors of their skin.”
We asked Guzman what the future will look like with MCBA’s mission now already embedded in the national debate. He pointed to the evolution of social equities toward a new Social Equity 2.0 that builds on the successes and failures of the past as a big part of the plans.
As for using his company as a tool in what’s to come, he plans to use his famed genetics catalog as a resource to give young social equity entrepreneurs an advantage as they enter the marketplace. He posted some of the original Gelato seeds on Instagram this morning so they should be in good shape.