Chris Webber, a former NBA All-Star, is spearheading a $100 million private equity fund to help entrepreneurs of color get started in the cannabis industry.
Webber will work with JW Asset Management to funnel resources to the entrepreneurs to aid with research, marketing and retail in a booming industry whose benefits they say have not reached minority entrepreneurs.
"It's crucial that we diversify leadership within the cannabis industry and level the playing field for people from our communities," Webber said in a statement. "For far too long, minorities have been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited. Working with JW, we will equip underrepresented entrepreneurs with the financial resources and industry knowledge to build businesses and thrive."
"The legal cannabis industry can only grow to its full potential when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, and I feel that it is my responsibility to play an active role in eliminating barriers to entry for individuals that have been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs," added Jason Wild, the founder of JW Asset Management.
The move comes as activists call for more minority representation in the mushrooming cannabis industry. Studies have shown the vast majority of marijuana businesses are owned by white people, while people of color have been the ones mostly arrested for cannabis-related crimes.
Webber said in his statement the main goal of his venture is to close that gap in an industry that could be worth north of $130 billion in the next three years.