Grassroots To Green Rush: Organizing Community Wealth in Cannabis

Interview with community organizer Al Florant

Written by Erica Roane

“The housing boom passed us, the tech boom passed us, we cannot let the cannabis industry pass us by.” These are the thoughts of community organizer Al Florant. After noticing where the cannabis industry was heading in the state of New York and the economic growth potential the plant offers, Al decided to start The Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective, a cannabis mastermind group in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

After experiencing amazing growth within its first few months of, The Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective recently hosted The Cannabis Trailblazer Awards in Brooklyn. Celebrating local leaders within the cannabis space, the sold-out event was a representation of cannabis’ curiosity within Brooklyn. After the event, Al shared his inspiration behind starting the collective, what he sees cannabis doing for urban communities, and the wealth that the plant can offer.

What is the Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective? Why did you choose to start the organization?

I’m a retired financial advisor with MetLife. I’ve spent time in the community and I want us to be able to build, grow, and transfer wealth generationally. Cannabis for me is one more opportunity for us to do this. It’s a ground floor opportunity to build wealth.

I started Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective back in November. We are a mastermind group of 11 people. We hold month meetings in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The meetings have grown to standing room only. The ‘z’ is intentional. We want to focus on the business side of cannabis. There are four lanes of the cannabis industry: medicinal, social justice, legislative, and economic impact.

Why did you choose to start The Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective?

The Cannabiz Collective is the outgrowth of two inspiring events. Three years ago I attended a Blacks and Technology event. At that time Sarita Wright, one of our honorees. She was the Social Media Manager for Black Enterprise. The conversation veered into cannabis. I was astounded by her depth of knowledge.

Last October I attended a forum at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration hosted by Assemblywoman Tremaine S. Wright called “Cannabis: 101.” Information was shared on a recent report by the New York City Comptroller stating that once cannabis is legal in NYC it will generate $3 billion in revenue and $1 billion in tax revenue.

What are the goals and intentions of Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective?

Our goal to educate the black community about cannabis. We want to be a resource and support system for those interested in cannabis. We want to provide the opportunity for people to make informed decisions in a legalized environment. We also would like to point people in a direction for employment opportunities in cannabis as well.

Are there any common misconceptions you're looking to dispel regarding cannabis?

For a lot of people cannabis is still just ‘weed’ and ‘pot.’ People of the community are used to seeing our brothers and sisters rolling up and smoking on the corner. We should focus on the economic opportunities available within cannabis. People of color are spiritual, the black church is everything. Once the pastor starts talking about cannabis as a business things will change. When more centers of influence start talking about their involvement this lends a lot of credibility. When Oprah gives cannabis her stamp of credibility, people will take a closer look.

What do you think will happen in New York once cannabis becomes legal?

Whether it's legal in New York or federally, I think that will help drive the conversation in our community ah-hah moment for a lot of people. More of the opportunity will be visible, Businesses will come to the forefront. There are real businesses with customers that are currently in the shadows. Behind the curtain, step into the light. This will open up employment and investment opportunities for people to consider. A watershed event is when the black church talks about it.

As dispensaries continue to open in Brooklyn and throughout New York, how does Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective look to partner with them?

Right now we have solid relationships with a major dispensary, Citiva and we’re fostering relationships with others. We are looking to tie in with companies who want to do outreach in the community. Dispensaries can offer a lot to our community with the priority being employment. We really think that this is the next biggest thing.

How can people learn more about Brooklyn Cannabiz Collective?

We meet monthly in Bedford-Stuyvesant at a place called The Good Space. People can feel free to contact me directly at brooklyncannabizcollective@gmail.com. I respond to every inquiry and every question. 

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