Devlon “DJ” Howard / Project Manager at Cannaclusive / Florida State Director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana / Co-Founder of Saved by the Treats
When did you formally enter the cannabis space?
Although I started dabbling in the cannabis space in 2017, it wasn’t until 2020 when the company I was working for was acquired and then dissolved, that I fully immersed myself into the industry. Getting laid off of what I thought was a pretty sweet job in corporate America that I had put so much into made me realize if I was going to work, it had to be something that felt like I was making a true impact on people’s lives. Yes, it has to be fun and enjoyable, but it has to move me. Anything else just seemed like a waste of my time.
What made you decide to work in the cannabis industry?
I originally became interested in working in the cannabis industry in 2017 when I was arrested for a misdemeanor possession charge in Virginia, and around the same time my girlfriend became very sick. The same cannabis that I was on probation for was helping her treat what we would later learn was stage 4 endometriosis. I realized, at a very basic level, how the same plant that was helping treat what doctors couldn’t, was being weaponized against people and specifically, at an alarming rate over decades, Black people. Understanding how powerful the plant is, how much money was being made off of it, and how many people were in prison and dealing with negative ramifications of the War on Drugs, has fueled me to find a place for myself and bring along more BIPOC people into this industry.
Do you feel there is more opportunity for Black Americans in the cannabis industry versus a more traditional industry? Yes or no and why?
I think there SHOULD BE more opportunities for Black Americans in the cannabis industry and in traditional industries. Specifically in cannabis though, Black Americans are owed more opportunities for a few reasons. Black Americans know cannabis from cultivation to consumerism -it’s not new to us. Black people have been budtenders before it was a term and cultivators since before people were classifying the plant by terpene profiles. Cannabis being legal is new to us, as it is for everyone; so when you consider the legal market, Black Americans have tons of knowledge that could help these MSOs. Black Americans have also been victims of the War on Drugs for multiple generations. Whether thrown in a cage, placed on probation, held back from career opportunities, not having a parent home because of legal issues and being separated from family, stop and frisk and PTSD from negative police interactions, lack of viable medical options, all of these things have happened to Black Americans at a far higher rate than any other group of people. For this industry to be projected to generate $50 billion in revenue before this decade is over and Black people not be a direct beneficiary is simply a continuation of the War on Drugs. Some might argue, it’s worse.
What is the most successful social equity effort in your opinion? Can be a charity or company program.
Social equity is such an important and necessary cause that choosing one program that is the best is really tough because social equity impact can happen in many ways. I love the work that Hood Incubator has done and continues to do as well as Supernova Women. I also admire what Our Academy and Hilary Yu do with helping BIPOC business owners. I can’t leave out Minorities for Medical Marijuana which pushes education, expungement and legislative initiatives that advocate for minorities in states across the country.
What is your personal goal for 2022?
My personal goal for 2022 is to continue enjoying working in cannabis and help bring more opportunities to BIPOC folx, whether they are business owners or interested in working at a cannabis company. I also want to connect in person with more of my canna-community that I’ve grown to love and love to support!