There's been a lot written about the "marijuana moms" of Beverly Hills and the Nancy Botwins of the weed scene. As the website Fusion put it last year, cannabis culture has become "a white girl thing." Bonita "Bo" Money, however, is working hard to keep at least some of the proceeds from the nation's green rush flowing to minorities.
She recently founded Women Abuv Ground, a group dedicated to educating and supporting fellow women of color who want in on the industry. And this year she plans to bring her own cannabinoid cream, That Glass Jar, to market. Its active ingredient, CBD (for cannabidiol) — which doesn't produce a high — has shown promise as a treatment for epileptic seizures, inflammation and psychosis. Money swears it helped a girlfriend recover from the antibiotic-resistant infection known as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). "She was dying and I was looking for something that would save her life," she says.
Though Money is her father's actual surname, she was born in Seoul and originally took the name of her Korean mother's family, Pak. Money was a globetrotting Army brat, but her family finally settled in Monterey. She came to Los Angeles to study psychology at USC in the 1980s but lasted only a year and a half. She moved to New York to study theater arts and then returned to the West Coast to work in Hollywood.
Her introduction to entertainment included working on videos and an unreleased film for Dr. Dre in the '90s. Money has credits for casting, acting and production in film and television spanning 15 years. Her work in Hollywood means that when she organizes Women Abuv Ground events, people such as TV host Montel Williams, former Overstock.com president Stormy Simon and retired NFL player Marvin Williams show up to participate.
Now, she says, "I'm working on a reality TV series about women in weed."
While her famous friends have been supportive, Money says the cannabis industry is much less so. She finds the weed business even less diverse than Hollywood, which hasn't exactly been praised for its inclusiveness in recent years. That's what inspired her to launch Women Abuv Ground in February. "I knew there needed to be an organization for women of color," she says.
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She recalls that she recently was invited to participate in a "diversity summit" on marijuana that was otherwise an "all-white panel."
"This is the kind of stuff the cannabis industry is dealing with these days," she says.
Diversity is important to Money because the legalization of recreational marijuana in California and the evolution of medical pot regulations, including state and local licensing that's expected to launch Jan. 1, can provide some serious business opportunities for people of color. With African-Americans and Latinos bearing the brunt of marijuana-related arrests in the Golden State in recent years, it's about time for economic justice.
"It's very important that this be an inclusive industry," Money says. "If you're white, you can be part of our organization."