By: Arielle Johnson
Nowadays, the term “cooperative economics” is close to becoming a household word in many African-American homes, as we struggle with the fact that we are the biggest consumers in industries we do not control. Economically, our support of these industries has not resulted in any large scale efforts, to ensure any significant percentage of our spending, comes back to our community for reinvestment purposes. Back in the late 1800’s, it was W.E.B. Dubois who told us, the same methods used by White Americans to achieve wealth, do not work for Blacks. Therefore, he was the pioneer of cooperative economics and wrote extensively on the subject.
In a nutshell, “cooperative economics” allows us to aggregate our funds to achieve goals that would ordinarily be beyond us.
Several years ago, Cecil Collier, an entrepreneur and resident of Ft. Worth, decided he wanted to connect Black businesses with each other in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area. He says, “There were a lot of Black people from various parts of our country, moving to places in our area we had never lived in before. Many of them had small businesses they started from their homes. I had the desire to connect them, so I started a mixer every 3rd Thursday. Eventually, we wanted something a little more permanent, so we sought to connect our movement to a church. However, most churches did not want to have anything to do with the idea of connecting Black-owned businesses.”
In due time, Mr. Collier and his co-founder, Angelico McKinney, found his church when they approached Rev. Alcee Chriss Jr. of Aletheia Temple Church in Fort Worth, with the idea of having a regular marketplace on the church’s property. And before the marketplace began, Mr. Collier, along with a group of entrepreneurs, many of whom were members of Black Wall Street Dallas/Ft. Worth, decided it was time to take a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma to discover the history and become inspired by the idea of a Black Wall Street. The marketplace is a seasonal outdoor operation, which will resume again in April of this year.
The marketplace is viable to the community, and more than likely will continue for a number of years to come, however, Mr. Collier has always had a much bigger plan in mind for his community. Last year he met a man, holding a seminar at the Pan-African bookstore, to work with side by side to help his vision come to fruition. The presenter was Jerry Ra, of the Urban Green University. Jerry Ra, is a Dallas/Ft. Worth master gardener who helps residents in the community set up community gardens and individual gardens for their homes using Aquaponic and Hydroponic growing systems.
Two days after meeting for the first time ever, Cecil Collier and Jerry Ra met each other again, this time at a Cannabis meeting presented by Mr. Collier. Mr. Ra was in attendance with his mother, and says they were both impressed with his knowledge of the industry.
Mr. Collier, once a student of the College of Siskiyous, located in Weed, California, describes the residents and students of the area, as being much more knowledgeable than people in other areas of the country, about the then illicit marijuana market.
When Mr. Collier gave his seminar in March of last year, although he was quite knowledgeable about the business, he knew he had position himself for being a player in the booming Cannabis market, as it had the promise of being one of the biggest come ups for African-Americans if done properly. Yes, California legalized marijuana for recreational use in January of this year, but unless you are a player in the industry, you would not know how costly errors are to nascent Cannabis entrepreneurs. So Mr. Collier, traveling in the circles he traveled in to gain as much knowledge as he had already gained, took some time off from giving seminars to position himself and other forward thinking African-Americans for the repeal of prohibition of marijuana in California, before it actually took place.
Based upon statistics provided by Arcview Market Research for North America, which publishes results of research conducted in the areas of the sale and distribution of Cannabis, in 2016, the Cannabis industry witnessed a 34% increase in sales from the previous year, netting a whooping $6.7 billion dollars in sales. The projection for 2020 is $22 billion. Experts in the field are saying the Cannabis industry is expected to see a 20+% rate of increase annually, far beyond 2021.
There are a number of different entertainers who have decided to cash in on this seemingly foolproof money-making business. Among them is Whoopi Goldberg, who has a business called “Maya and Whoopi” which specializes in tinctures, topical rubs, edibles, and bath salts, specifically designed to help women who suffer from menstrual cramps. You may have heard of Snoop Dogg having a company called “Leafs”, but he also started a $25 million dollar venture capitalist firm called “Casa Verde” (english translation – Greenhouse) and has already invested $10 million dollars in a marijuana delivery service called “Eaze”.
So why not pack up the van, kids and dog, and all of your belongings and high tail it to California to be a part of this gold rush? Well….there are some serious concerns that need to be taken into consideration first. We must remember there is a serious difference between State and Federal government and with that being said, it costs quite a bit of money to obtain licensing to operate within the limits of the law. In California State, there are three licensing bureaus, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, the Manufactured Safety Branch and CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing. A license application fee for sellers and others alone, is $1,000. Other fees involved are $4,000-$72,000/year based upon how much product is moved, fees for distribution licensing ranging from $1,200-125,000, also there are product testing fees which can range from $20,000-90,000/year.
If you make it past the licensing part of starting of a Cannabis business, your next concern should be deciding on what to do with all the money you will be making and how to store it. Remember, because the industry is regulated by the State as opposed to the Federal government, you can forget about stashing your earnings in a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insured bank to protect your savings, because it is not allowed. But this is just a small inconvenience when you consider what you can gain economically if you decide to get into the business.
If you do not have the capital to meet the legal requirements to become a business owner in the Cannabis industry, Mr. Collier and Mr. Ra have devised a way for you to make money, without having to be concerned with the encumbrances of making sure you are 100% compliant at all times, to avoid costly fines. They have a membership group called “United Cannabis Growers Association” which was formed in mid-July 2017. Depending on what level of membership you decide is best for you, you can help with raising the necessary funds to cultivate Cannabis on a large plot of land they have obtained in the Northwest area of the United States. The group has already cultivated Cannabis plants towards the end of last year’s the growing season, which runs from March to October, and has been successful in making back the money they used as start-up capital, and earning even more from its sale and distribution.
Because the next growing season is right around the corner, Mr. Collier and Mr. Ra have put together a number of informative seminars, which will help you to understand what it takes to be a member, and what the financial benefits of membership are at the end of the season. For those individuals who are interested in having a more hands on role in the business, there will be apprenticeships available this year. There are two sets of seminars coming up during the month of February, also known as Black History month. On January 20, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., these two gentlemen will at The Crystal Stairs Restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana and on January 27th , a second opportunity will be available at the Hurst Conference Center in Hurst, Texas at 10 am, 3 pm and 7 pm.
Mr. Collier and Mr. Ra have access to over 100 acres of land which they are planning to use for the growth of Cannabis. Each acre is capable of producing millions of dollars. This is not an advertisement for their business, but rather an article designed to pique your interest in conducting some research of your own to determine whether or not this business may be for you. The United Cannabis Growers Association is the perfect example of cooperative economics and holds the promise of helping African-Americans use money from the Cannabis business to invest in other industries and innovative business ideas.
For further details and questions, please reach out to Cecil Collier at 817-915-0685.