LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — In just a few months, Clark County will begin accepting business applications for cannabis lounges. Now a first-of-its-kind program aims to propel people of color into positions of power in the marijuana industry.
It’s called the Pathway to Ownership program, and the 17-week course aims to address the gap between the growth of the cannabis industry over the last few years and growing social inequities within the industry.
“Now that these white guys are making a fortune, let’s pass some of that success on to other people,” said Commissioner Tick Segerblom.
Last week, the Clark County Commission approved $270,000 of the county’s marijuana fees to fund the business, networking and mentoring program, which offers a certificate to those who complete it successfully.
Segerblom said Pathway to Ownership is the first of its kind in the US It was developed by A’esha Goins, who is the chair of the Cannabis Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Social Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Goins said this is what she hopes participants get out of it: “The confidence that they can do this business and be good at it, and then also create a network of mentors.”
Cannabis continues to be a budding industry in Nevada following the legalization of recreational marijuana about five years ago.
“There’s over $100 million a year that goes into schools. We make $15 million ourselves for Clark County, so, it’s a great industry and should, no pun intended, keep growing,” said Segerblom.
But for an industry so green, it sure is white, particularly at the top.
“The marijuana industry, at least ownership, is fairly white-dominated. A lot of rich guys got into it early,” said Segerblom. “The people who actually were adversely impacted by marijuana being illegal were people of color.”
According to the State of Nevada, of the roughly 330 business permits issued by the state, only three have gone to Black-owned businesses.
Additionally, people of color were disproportionately affected by marijuana being illegal in the past.
“Latins and Black Americans were three times more likely to get picked up for possession,” said Goins.
“I have family members that have been impacted by, ya know, being incarcerated for possession of cannabis, things like that,” said Douglas Turner, who just completed the pilot program. “And now it’s becoming legal, so it seems a little unfair sometimes.”
Turner said that is, in particular, one of his biggest motivations; he just completed the pilot program, and will get his certificate next month.
“The goal is to open up a cannabis lounge,” said Turner. “Make it very leisure, and relaxing.”
Through the program, Turner got assistance with his cannabis lounge application submission to the state, and help and feedback on his business plan. He called the program “insightful,” and aims to launch his business this year.
He said he hopes to share his knowledge with others, and bring more diversity and inclusion as a leader in the industry.
“It is really groundbreaking when you’re in a position where you can impact others from less fortunate communities and things like that. It’s very fulfilling,” said Turner.
Segerblom said lounges are a great place to start for a first-time, aspiring business owner.
“We could help subsidize that, get it up and running, and then maybe they can move on to dispensaries and grows and stuff,” Segerblom said.
The course also creates an opportunity for professional networking and provides qualified social equity candidates for executive and management positions in the cannabis marketplace.
“Anyone can apply, but it is designed to help people who’ve been adversely affected by marijuana being illegal,” Segerblom said.
Seven county commissioners approved the funding in an unanimous vote.
“We’re gonna monitor it, and then if it works, which hopefully it will, we’ll support another academy, and just keep going like that,” said Segerblom.
Applications for the next cohort will be accepted again in two weeks. To learn how to apply, navigate to the bottom of this webpage and join the mailing list, Goins said.