Black-owned cannabis accessory company working to change the industry
3 Halifax entrepreneurs started Fumes Rolling Papers and Accessories last summer
Three Halifax entrepreneurs who founded a cannabis accessory company last year are working to promote Black ownership in an industry that lacks diversity.
Brothers Josh Creighton, Treno Morton and Tyler Morton began selling naturally made rolling papers last summer when the pandemic meant many jobs were drying up. Their company, Fumes Rolling Papers and Accessories, now has products in 50 stores in the Halifax area and one in Kingston, Ont.
While Black people in Canada are underrepresented in senior positions in cannabis companies, they were also among the people most targeted by pot prohibition. The trio's long-term goal is to grow and sell their own cannabis as they work to change the industry from within.
"We're super excited to do so, and it's super empowering to do so … given the history of cannabis and legalization and stigmatizing of Black people," Creighton told CBC's Mainstreet.
A report by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation released last fall found that Black, Indigenous and other people of colour are largely absent from leadership positions in cannabis companies. University of Toronto researchers analyzed 700 leadership roles with 222 businesses, and found that 84 per cent are white and 86 per cent are male.
The report also found that only two per cent of industry leaders are Indigenous, and just one per cent are Black.
Before legalization, meanwhile, Black and Indigenous people were disproportionately arrested for minor pot possession, according to data gathered by Vice News.
"A lot of my friends and a lot of people who I just know [were] going to jail for cannabis, and now it's legal, and some of them are still in jail for the same thing that's legal now," Tyler said.
It's one of the reasons why Treno said he was worried at first about starting the business.
"I just know how the weed industry is scrutinized and how Black people are looked at nowadays anyway," he said.
"Sometimes we do face racism, sometimes we are looked at funny or whatever the case may be, but we never get discouraged, we just keep on going."
Plans to grow the business
Right now, the company's pure hemp rolling papers are made overseas, but the founders have plans to find a location in Nova Scotia where they can do everything, including manufacturing, under one roof.
In addition to selling their products in stores, they also sell them online and offer a monthly subscription service to encourage people to stay home during the pandemic.
Tyler, who is several years older than Josh and Treno, has experience running other businesses and it was his suggestion that planted the seed for Fumes.
"They smoke a lot of weed so they were tired of lining other people's pockets, and I was just sitting there listening to them so I just spoke up and said, 'Well, create your own,'" he said.
Tyler said so far they've paid for everything on their own, without applying for government or business loans.
"We just keep on going because ... for some people February is 28 days and that's when they celebrate Black history," he said. "For other people, like my brothers and I, we're Black every day, 365 days a year so we have to find ways to make money, ways to be entrepreneurs."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from CBC Radio's Mainstreet