Black History Month Spotlight: Darnell Smith


Darnell Smith, Founder & CEO of MXXN

When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
MXXN officially came to market at the beginning of 2022.

What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
I was working in the spirits industry in product innovation and found myself drinking more than I cared to due to the profession – tastings, industry events, happy hours and so on. I was looking for a way to cut back on the alcohol but still be a part of the social aspects that come along with drinking. I had been a consumer of cannabis for chronic pain after 15 years as a football player and would make my own tinctures at home, so, I started bringing the tinctures out to social events, ordering a tonic and lime and putting a few drops in. My wife always encouraged me to find a way to bring the tincture and tonic idea to the public in some capacity, and fast forward some years to a meeting about a non-alcoholic spirit product in the works, and the concept of MXXN was born.

 Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?

Given legal cannabis industry is still in its infancy as compared to other industries, I believe we have a chance to create a more equitable and inclusionary foundation. It’s not going to be easy, as the traditional market forces are certainly at play – capital is still in the hands of the elite few. However, I am excited to be on the forefront of breaking through that barrier and showing that a diverse industry is not charity – it is proven to produce better business outcomes.

What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.

Too early in the effort to identify successful vs not successful. I think there is a groundswell of both for-profit and non-profit organizations that are really trying to do something meaningful. I love what Al Harrington is doing at Viola. Christine De La Rosa and The People’s Ecosystem have an important voice in advocating for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs. Important policy and education work are being led by the likes of the Marijuana Policy Project and the Last Prisoner Project. So many more I could name, and I think its going to take all of us working in concert to drive the change we all want to see.

What is your personal goal for 2022?
In terms of MXXN, we’re looking to build a brand that is synonymous with a premium cannabis experience, starting with beverages. This year we’re focusing on getting liquid to lips and building our customer base through both our e-comm and retail footprint. Once consumers try MXXN we believe they’ll unlock a totally new dimension in the way they feel along with new ways to socialize and enjoy cocktail culture, which is really exciting. Driving a more equitable and diverse industry is also a core goal of the business and of my own on a personal level, so we are always looking for opportunities to further that goal.

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