Every February, we celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month. At Come Back Daily, we thought it would be fitting to honor Black History Month by celebrating African American cannabis entrepreneurs who are pioneers in the industry Whether it’s starting a non-profit, a unique line of products, or using their voice to move cannabis culture into mainstream society, remember these names, as they’ll likely continue to make a huge impact within the industry.
Black Thought Leaders in Cannabis
Jake Plowden – Co-Founder of The Cannabis Cultural Association
Photo by Honeysuckle Magazine
Jake Plowden is the deputy director and a co-founder of The Cannabis Cultural Association, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides resources for disenfranchised communities to get into legal cannabis and hemp. Growing up in Brooklyn and Harlem, he has witnessed firsthand the destructive components of the Drug War and its socioeconomic effects on African American/Latinx communities.
He co-founded the CCA alongside Nelson Guerrero back in 2016 in response to the lack of diversity and inclusion in the growing cannabis industry, especially for millennials of color. He produces and organizes events surrounding cannabis education, entrepreneurship, policy, advocacy/activism, and the the War On Drugs’ effects on communities of color. He also is the executive producer and co-host of the weekly podcast “In The Know 420” with criminal attorney and cannabis advocate Joseph Bondy.
Tauhid Chappell – Founder, Color of Cannabis Conference
Tauhid Chappell is an Executive Board member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, the first and oldest association of black journalists in the U.S. Recently he worked as a social media producer at The Washington Post before joining the Philadelphia Inquirer as an engagement editor, where he analyzes reader behavior on search, social and digital platforms. During his days off, he works part-time as a cannabis patient advisor for the medical marijuana dispensary, Herbology.
In April 2019, he founded the Color of Cannabis Conference, Philadelphia’s first cannabis conference that was led by a media nonprofit which educated media professionals and community members on all aspects of cannabis – from its history to current industry trends.
Mary Pryor is a business entrepreneur, trailblazer and a major force of change. Raised in Detroit, Pryor is now a bicoastal media expert and outspoken voice in a cannabis industry that needs more strong women speaking up for diversity and inclusion. Pryor co-founded Cannaclusive to fight racism that she experienced in the cannabis industry, and to focus on inclusive marketing and business advocacy in cannabis. She also serves on the board for Possible Plan (a Cura Cannabis social equity effort), is the New York chapter president of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, and advises several cannabis and hemp companies including Kanna, Dieux Skin, and Flor De Maria Chocolates.
Her work with Tonic and Tricolla Farms, a hemp-growing collective in upstate New York, focuses on sustainability and delivering authentic products to people. In the process, Pryor proves that transparency and educating people about plant medicine with compassion is the best policy.
Leo Bridgewater – Founder, New Jersey Cannabis Commission
Leo Bridgewater was an Army Specialist who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked with some of the Army’s highest ranked officers as a communications liaison before retiring with an honorable discharge. Having struggled with PTSD himself, he was acutely aware of the absurdity of treating his condition with opiates and anxiety medications, which only masked symptoms and made him feel more like a zombie than anything else.
After learning that several veteran friends took their own lives in suicide, Leo became an activist for cannabis. He was one of three veterans asked to testify before the New Jersey State Assembly, when an amendment adding PTSD as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical marijuana law was under consideration. He has since traveled throughout the United States advocating on behalf of veterans in other states’ legislative hearings and speaking at events. He is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice over the unconstitutional classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. He invites veterans to connect with him through his nonprofit organization, New Jersey Cannabis Commission.
Wanda James – Founder and CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary
Wanda James, along with her husband Scott Durrah, they became the first African Americans, legally licensed in America, to own a dispensary, a cultivation facility and an edible company. As a leading advocate in the cannabis industry, Wanda’s political and entrepreneurial work on cannabis reform has led to her being named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis by High Times magazine in 2018, one of the 2016 Cannabis Business Executive (CBE) 50 Most Important Women in the Cannabis Industry, and has been featured in numerous shows including The BBC, Democracy Now,The Atlantic, MIC.com, MSNBC, Smile Jamaica, ViceLand, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CBS Sunday Morning Holiday Special, “Eat, Drink and be Merry” and CNBC’s Marijuana USA.
Sirita Wright – Co-founder & CMO, EstroHaze
Sirita Wright is an experienced digital strategist and writer with over 10 years of experience in the fashion and media industries. She has written for top websites such as Fortune, and The Huffington Post. She has extensive experience creating and executing digital campaigns and has done related work for brands including Prudential, Hilton, and Lexus.
A longtime cannabis enthusiast, Sirita began delving deeper into the business side of the cannabis industry in 2013 by 2015 Sirita and her colleagues Kali and Safon co-founded EstroHaze – a multimedia company providing cannabis business and lifestyle information and resources to the masses via their website, podcast, and live events. As CMO Sirita focuses on growing EstroHaze’s audience base. Along with driving engagement and retention; and leading creative, brand, and communications strategies.
Never one to sit idly, Sirita is also an actress and has had guest roles on the ID Channels ‘My Dirty Little Secret’ and her web series, 195 Lewis, was recently shown at the Brooklyn Museum and has been taking the country by storm with prior screenings in places like Paris, the Netherlands and Brussels.