Raising Black voices in cannabis media – Q&A with Hazey Taughtme, Editor of Black Cannabis Magazine
Entrepreneur. Talent Manager. Publisher. These are just a few of the descriptors of Hazey Taughtme, the brain behind Black Cannabis Magazine, a publication amplifying Black voices in the cannabis community.
A native of the East Coast, Taughtme arrived in Los Angeles, California for the first time in 2002, and officially moved there recently. The former DJ and manager to Freeway Ricky Ross is an official member of the Rolling Stone Culture Council and director of special events for the National Diversity & Inclusion Cannabis Alliance. He’s also the founder of the Haze Hope Center, a social services non-profit he began in March, 2017.
In this interview with GreenState, Taughtme talks about what inspired him to start a magazine for people of color in the cannabis industry and the future of cannabis in the United States.
How many people work for Black Cannabis Magazine?
I have a staff of five people, including me. We’re bootstrapping it. Most of the staff are writers that I’ve found through my journey. Along my journey I’ve met different people in different positions. I’ve built this platform through my relationships I’ve made over the years. I’ve found a lot of the newer people through Clubhouse. During the pandemic, Clubhouse opened so many doors and made connecting with new people easier, being able to listen to their voices and hear them speak before interacting.
What did it take to get the publication started?
I thought I would get into the industry by curating a celebrity brand. I was meeting with so many cannabis companies and telling them what I was capable of and who I knew. I can help market. I can get publicity. I was also trying to get a brand for myself, but people didn’t believe me. Even my history managing Ricky Ross wasn’t enough. I had to figure out a way to create a national splash with the least amount of money. That’s why I created the magazine.
What’s a piece Black Cannabis Magazine produced that you’re most proud of?
That’s hard to answer. I’m proud of a lot of what we’ve put on that site and what we’ve written. But I’d have to say getting Whoppi Goldberg for a cover story was pretty big for us. It helped establish us. It definitely boosted me into the national cannabis conversation. The most powerful story was “Black Athletes in Cannabis.” I wanted to make everyone aware of how many athletes are involved. If this many athletes are involved, then why aren’t you?
Black Americans are largely underrepresented in the cannabis community. Why do you think that is?
There’s definitely an imbalance. One thing I want to see Black people get is more equity, and not make it so hard to get into the industry. Across the nation, cities and counties put all these restrictions to opening a dispensary. You need high amounts of money, in some cases you need at-the-ready real estate. We’ve seen examples of people paying rents on buildings for 18 months before they were even in operation.
Those things make it hard for it to be equitable. Karim Mayfield in Oakland paid rent three or four years before his dispensary was operational. Luckily, he had funds to help with those costs when no income was coming in.
Every place has their own restrictions. In Pennsylvania, you needed a million in the bank that you couldn’t touch, as well as real estate. Then there are the application fees. That’s before you can even move forward. It should be simplified. If you want to open a dispensary it’s 5,000. A lounge is 1,000. Delivery driver permit is $50. That’s the kind of system I believe we need to make cannabis equitable and accessible to more Black entrepreneurs.
We created the Black Flower Family, a group of leaders that consists of Al Harrington of Viola, Shiest Bubz of The Smokers Club, Jessie Grundy of the Peakz Company, Jesce Horton of Lowd, Kingston and Felix Murray of Gashouse and myself. We believe that through unity,we can create fair opportunities for ourselves and others that are usually excluded.
What are some legislative issues you’re looking at regarding cannabis consumption?
Expungements across the nations are very important. We can’t be making billions of tax dollars while our brothers and sisters are still locked up for the plant. There’s stuff on all levels; local, state and national.
In Louisiana, it costs $650 to get an expungement off your record. That’s a barrier for folks who deserve clean backgrounds. Half of California still doesn’t allow retail sales. But people are still buying cannabis every day. Stuff like that fuels the black market and they wonder why it’s not going away.
What’s the future for Black Cannabis Magazine?
Our next issue is our 4/20 issue. We’ve got big shoes to fill. We’ve been looking at potential partnerships and more ways to get our brand in front of the masses. We’re expanding upon the different ways to market and get other people’s stories out. We’re still just learning what our audience wants. And sticking to that. We’ll be going more digital as well. Definitely exploring the metaverse and NFT’s. We’ll produce shareable content. That’s what grows your audience. That’s what my audience wants. More videos. Going on location and entertaining my audience with content.
Jordan Guinn is a published journalist with bylines in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Stockton Record and more. He’s covered everything from agriculture, to violent crime to water.