Marlo Richardson is a former police lieutenant and cannabis entrepreneur. She is the founder of four Cannabis businesses, including Tremendo and Just Mary, lifestyle Cannabis brands based out of California.
Richarson is also a serial entrepreneur. She is the founder of Business Bullish, a website, and resource that seeks to train people in the areas of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Marlo is the owner of STAGE 21 bar in Culver City, CA, formally known as the Tattletale Room Tavern. She is also the president of Marlo Productions and produced two theatrical films and hosts a podcast that mentors people looking to start investing in cryptocurrency and the stock market.
Marlo Richardson spoke to the Chicago Defender about the stigmas surrounding CBD and Cannabis use, its medicinal benefits, and why more people of color are needed in the industry.
Chicago Defender: What spurred your interest in the Cannabis industry?
Marlo Richardson: It was twofold. I worked on a security plan for a friend who was entering the business and during that time, my mom began to have issues with chronic pain. Another friend of mine who lived in a different city gave me a few CBD Creams to treat my mother’s pain and that was literally the only thing that helped her. That’s what made me want to get into this industry.
Chicago Defender: There are so many misconceptions surrounding cannabis, especially the benefits. What are some of the benefits you have seen since entering this industry?
Marlo Richardson: Oh, absolutely. My sister, who is also a registered nurse, has suffered from migraines. The only thing that helps her right now is the CBD gummies. I also have others who suffer from anxiety who enjoy it to relax.
Chicago Defender: Are you finding that more people are consuming cannabis to aid them with their mental and emotional health?
Marlo Richardson: There are really two sides to this market. There is one side with people who simply enjoy consuming the substance. They are usually looking to relax or focus. Those people usually use Indica or Sativa. Then there are others who use it for medicinal purposes. It helps with anxiety. We’ve also seen an increase in senior citizen use. Seniors are buying items to help with ailments and chronic pains. They don’t want to take pills every day that could sedate them. So, cannabis has been greatly beneficial for them.
Chicago Defender: It’s interesting now to see an industry grow that has affected so many Black and brown people negatively. With the cannabis industry’s growth, it seems black and brown people are still getting locked out of this industry. Can you speak to that?
Marlo Richardson: Absolutely. I’ll be 100% honest and transparent about this because it’s really unfortunate. I wasn’t born with a silver spin in my mouth, but I did save. That savings allowed me to enter this industry. I applied for my license on the last day. The moment I pressed the send button, I received an invoice for $24K that needed to be paid within ten days. Most people don’t have $24K as expendable income. That wasn’t all. That didn’t include the state application, the state license fee, and the cultivation fee, all of which were thousands of dollars. In addition, I applied to grow my own product and that license was $80K. These are annual fees. Who can do that? Thankfully, I was advised that I qualified for a lower license but even that was $20K a year.
It puts an entrepreneur into a situation where you have to make it work because you are so heavily invested. People have also missed opportunities to enter this market because the application process takes so long. It took me almost a year to get the licenses in my hand. Thankfully, I was also working with someone who also already had a space. Otherwise, I would have been paying a lease on a building for a year before I could even operate. They don’t make it easy or affordable and the taxes are a completely different issue. So, you pay all this money to operate, and then they kill you on the taxes as though you walk through the door.
Chicago Defender: It sounds like the entire process of obtaining licensing is complicated and expensive. How could that change to help more people of color get into this space?
Marlo Richardson: The process needs to change. The ones in charge should make changes in the licensing price. It’s like going to college and receiving financial aid. They should provide money for people of color to apply. It’s like getting a fee waiver. If you qualify for social equity, then they need to supply money and resources to do that. The other part is the actual licensing process. With all of the regulations, it’s just not very user-friendly.
Chicago Defender: With so many barriers how can a cannabis entrepreneur make their business work?
Marlo Richardson: Research and Preparation. In addition, if they don’t want to lose 49% of their business, I would highly recommend finding money. Whether that’s a loan or, gathering a group of friends to invest, you have to find funding. If you don’t, the typical social equity model will have investors for you however, you will lose 49% of your business. These investors also charge management fees, and they hire their people. Once that social equity applicant gets down to the nuts and bolts of what is transpiring in the business that they no longer actually own or have any oversight of the business.
For more on Marlo Richardson, visit her website at www.marlorichardson.com