Building a More Inclusive Industry: Q&A with Corey Barnette of District Growers

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<![CDATA[District Growers established itself in Washington, D.C., in 2012, part of a medical cannabis market that has grown steadily ever since. Founder and President Corey Barnette says that his extensive business background gave him a solid foundation for his entrance into the cannabis space. And now that he’s spent years here, navigating the cultivation side of the industry and monitoring broader trends in the U.S., he says that there are ways for business owners to challenge the working assumptions about social equity and market development. While he may be in D.C., a smaller market than many of the larger states coming online, he points to the fragmentation of the U.S. cannabis space as a major problem.“We have to build long-term relationships to build a stronger cannabis community among ourselves to be competitive and profitable for years to come,” he says.Here, our recent conversation with Barnette helps illuminate that need.Mila Marshall: You are one of the licensed industry’s few African American growers. How did you find yourself one of the few history makers in the cannabis industry? BarnetteCorey Barnette: I have a background in business and graduated from Duke School of Business. I had been strategically buying and selling businesses—like an automotive parts manufacturer, a clinical research company and other small businesses. In 2008, I was invited by a colleague to sit on the Board of the San Diego Medical Marijuana Collective, and subsequently ended up purchasing the company. After owning and operating that company I opened a second dispensary, Chi Holistic Collective. My companies were two of the top 10 largest businesses in San Diego at the time, and, while that success was phenomenal, my family was based in Washington, D.C. The industry was just beginning and I was able to engage and help influence the market using my previous experience. When…

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