Seun Adedeji is breaking boundaries as one of the select few young Black leaders in the industry.
At just 27, Adedeji is the founder and CEO of his own cannabis dispensary called Elev8, which is now located in central Massachusetts’s hinterlands. According to a Bloomberg cover story on Adedeji, he is a Nigerian immigrant with only a high school diploma. At 13, he experienced being arrested for doing the very thing he is doing now – feeling marijuana.
The cannabis industry is dominated by white business owners, while people of color are still serving time for crimes that are now legal. Adedeji says he wants to do his part by making sure Black people specifically become a part of the marijuana industry, saying that he wants to fix system racism inequities. “We need to create generational wealth in the minority community,” he said.
On Nov. 3, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota will vote on whether or not they’d like to legalize recreational marijuana. Bloomberg reports that some state and city governments have also started social equity programs for marijuana businesses, which would help business owners of color as well as those who have non-violent marijuana convictions who live in areas with disproportionate drug arrests.
Minority Cannabis Business Association estimates that only 200 of the nation’s more than 7,000 licenses dispensaries are Black-owned. And the marijuana industry itself is a $16 billion a year business. Bloomberg reports that it regularly costs $500,000 to $1.5 million to open a dispensary, which sets marginalized groups of people at a disadvantage. In Adedeji’s case, the $1 million he needed for his first Massachusetts shop was gained with the help of a marijuana Industry supplier. They loaned him the money, at 8 percent interest, but also levied a $3 per item fee and made a deal that Adedeji had to buy 70 percent of his product from the lender, writes John Hechinger of Bloomberg.
Adedeji opened his first dispensary in Eugene, Ore. and then chose Massachusetts as his next dispensary location because it had a less saturated market. After that, he moved to Boston and got licenses to operate three dispensaries in the state. The first is in Anthol, where he paid $50,000 to buy his latest building that used to be a gas station.
The name of Adedeji’s dispensary Elev8 has two meanings: to get high and the effort to push forward the legalization movement’s social equity mission.