By Kyle Arnold
Micanopy farmer Matt Bowman looks over his wine vineyard and considers what it would look like with marijuana plants growing there instead.
But Bowman, who is African American, wonders if he’ll be left out of the fast-growing medical marijuana business.
“I know I don’t have enough money to do this on my own,” said Bowman, a 47-year-old retired U.S. Navy pilot. “It’s a big investment, but I do have a lot of knowledge about farming and land practices.”
He and other minorities are fighting for a slice of Florida’s fast-growing medical marijuana industry, a business dominated nationwide by white men. They’ve formed a group based in Orlando called Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana, which holds classes and networking events to make sure that the business includes at least some people of color.
“Minorities have been the ones punished the most for anti-marijuana laws,” said Roz McCarthy, an African American woman who founded Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana two years ago and also owns a public relations firm called The Genesis Group. “Now that medical marijuana is legal, those same minorities shouldn’t be left out or scared to participate.”
The group says barriers are too high for many minorities to get into the lucrative business. Nationwide, about 19 percent of marijuana business executives are black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian and about 27 percent are female, according to a survey from trade publication “Marijuana Business Daily.”
“In some places, there are really big financial requirements,” said Paul Seaborn, an assistant business professor who studies marijuana at The University of Denver in Colorado. “That’s disappointing for some people that were hoping this new industry would be more diverse.”
In Florida, applicants must pay a $60,630 licensing fee. They must also prove they have the background to grow and sell marijuana, as well as the money to finance an operation.