1st Black cannabis entrepreneurs expo coming to New Orleans

1st Black cannabis entrepreneurs expo coming to New Orleans

By Anthony McAuley

Peter Labat and his wife Venia are a bit bemused, but also excited, to be among a group of around 2,000 budding marijuana entrepreneurs slated to participate in the first-ever Black CannaCon in late November at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Since starting their business last year in New Orleans East, they’ve been surprised to find that The Labat Wood Shop’s hottest item by far has been their custom-made joint rolling trays. So, they’re looking forward to exhibiting at the show and learning about one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

“The idea of going to a cannabis expo still seems kind of fantastical, almost Disney World-ish to me,” said Peter Labat. “Here in New Orleans, the cannabis culture is not that strong compared to places like Las Vegas or California, where it’s been fully legal for a while. So, learning about dispensaries, growing, distribution — it’s a whole new world.”

Louisiana’s cannabis laws had been among the most restrictive in the country, even for medicinal use, though recent changes have loosened things up. In June, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a lift of the ban on whole flower and smoking, restrictions which made the medical marijuana business unviable. That will take effect at the start of next year.

The idea for a convention and expo aimed exclusively at Black cannabis professionals came to Kristi Price, publisher of Black CannaBusiness Magazine, last November when an informal online gathering she organized attracted more than 600 participants who ended up clamoring for a larger, in-person event to carry on the conversation, she said.

Price, a long-time marketing executive who had worked for brands like Nike, Red Bull, and Guinness over the past two decades, started her Houston-based media company in 2019, partly with the idea of addressing what she saw as the deep disparity in the way the cannabis industry was developing.

“There are no business-to-business media or conferences that target people of color in this space and people of color have a very different experience with the plant, both in terms of the criminal justice system and from the diversity and inclusion perspective,” she said.

Indeed, the disparity in the criminal justice system is well established and has continued even as decriminalization and legalization of cannabis have spread.

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