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Franklin’s Stash House hopes to increase minority representation in the weed industry

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Franklin’s Stash House began as a two-man team in the corner of a warehouse, hand-rolling hemp blunts.

Three years later, the producer sources from Missouri’s top five growers and sells to dispensaries across the state.

“Across the industry, there are fewer than two percent Black people in the business,” said co-owner Ronald Rice.

Rice’s priority is to make sure minority representation doesn’t begin and end with him. In the company’s words, simply being first isn’t enough. The target therefore is not only black customers, but also black owners.

“Success for me means helping others,” Rice said. “Marijuana has been around me all along, so having the opportunity to participate in this industry has been important to me, because they are an example of what the possibilities can be.”

Rice was convicted and sent to prison in 1995 on a marijuana charge. Now, as the owner of a cannabis company, he is pushing to change the narrative for the thousands of people who still look like him behind bars.

“Most of the people incarcerated behind marijuana (are) mostly black and brown. So when the laws changed and you (could) clear him, it helped, but it still isn’t enough to get those blacks and browns in the business,” Rice said.

Rice says the ability to relate to their customers in a way that invites them to see themselves as appreciated in the industry is what sets them apart.

“It’s the feel, it’s the vibe, it’s the energy we project and it all goes into the product,” Rice said. “That culture is what we target because they can recognize the product.”

She also says that because her business partner Mike Wilson is Caucasian, it helps them create a cross-cultural environment and reach a wider audience.

“That’s what makes us dynamic. That gives us authenticity and you can see the transparency because it’s in places, ‘Who’s that?’ and the same with me when I get to the boardroom, ‘Why is this guy here?’ That gives us an edge. It lets us see both sides of the table and we can blend them together. That’s why we call it cross-culture,” Rice said.

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