By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
The Community for Entrepreneurs Engaged in Development (CEED) is the newest platform helping Black people take their fair share of ownership in the billion-dollar cannabis industry.
Founded by husband and wife Tre’Von Dorsey and Mercedes Teasley-Dorsey, the artificial-backed digital platform connects Black entrepreneurs to the resources required to launch, scale and grow cannabis and cannabis-adjacent businesses.
By 2030, the legal marijuana market is expected to grow to more than $100 billion. However, in the United States today, less than 2 percent of owners in the sector are Black.
CEED is on a mission to make this figure more equitable. The company strives to generate 3 million Black cannabis-aligned entrepreneurs by 2052.
“Medically, recreationally, there are different ways that we can collaborate with this plant and really create new opportunities for wealth creation, health benefits and expanding industries,” said Teasley-Dorsey.
Dorsey grew up in Calvert County, Md., while Teasley-Dorsey was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She moved to Maryland in 2013 and met Dorsey in 2014.
Ceed arose after the couple tried to obtain a license from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) in 2019, nearly a year after Gov. Larry Hogan passed a law to increase minority and women participation in the industry.
Dorsey was already a manager at a dispensary, which had an all-minority team, but the spouses wanted to cultivate their own cannabis products.
After spending thousands of dollars and clocking countless hours during the submission process, Dorsey and Teasley-Dorsey were denied by the MMCC. The couple subsequently joined a class action lawsuit against the MMCC, alleging that the commission displayed a lack of transparency and clarity and that its approach to equity was a sham.
An independent investigation was launched, but the MMCC was found to have no fault.
“What we really found was ultimately, if we wanted to create social equity, there weren’t a lot of people who look like us who would meet all of the parameters that needed to be met in order to successfully open up a cultivation or a dispensary,” said Teasley-Dorsey. “Things like you need almost $5 million, at least, in accessible, fluid capital just to get started, how many Black people do you know who have access to $5 million just off the rip?”
Teasley-Dorsey said aside from capital challenges, fear is also a big barrier to Black people entering the cannabis industry. As consumers, Black people are arrested nearly 4 times more than their counterparts.
There is both fear of retribution and fear of the cannabis plant itself because of the War on Marijuana and national anti-marijuana campaigns, according to Teasley-Dorsey.
The CEED platform was designed around transparency. Every user is able to see where other business owners are sourcing their products, services and solutions.
Users can join for free if they are students, retirees, researchers or other individuals who want to explore cannabis-related data.
Otherwise, CEED offers different prices and benefits for innovators, those between zero and two years of business; advisors, those who support innovators and create knowledge banks, tutorials and video classes; and investors, those who are established in the industry and have access to resources and capital to advance innovators and advisors.
The company is also building a Web3—an internet service that is built using decentralized blockchains—community through the sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The first collection of CEED NFTs launched Oct. 11 on OpenSea, the world’s first and largest digital marketplace for crypto collectibles and NFTs, and it’s called the Age of Annihilation.
The collection represents CEED’s slogan, “Afrofuturism powered by cannabis,” and depicts what the world would look like if the Black community and African diaspora could harness the full potential of cannabis.
CEED users who buy NFTS and join the Web3 community will receive access to exclusive voting and token-holder benefits, like a private monthly masterclass with other cannabis brands, as well as access to a roster of community projects and global ambassador program to encourage novel, diverse growth in the industry.
“Our main goals at this point are to attract our first 5,000 people and really start to see an impact, an influence, a change in the cannabis industry from the inside out by harnessing that pioneering innovation and partnering with human resources to help bring those ideas, visions and dreams to life,” said Teasley-Dorsey.
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