Former NBA star Chris Webber is creating a $100 million private equity fund to support underrepresented minority entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.
Webber, who now works as a TNT commentator, will partner with JW Asset Management, whose portfolio already has substantial investments in cannabis funds.
“It’s crucial that we diversify the leadership in the cannabis industry and level the playing field for people from our communities,” Webber said in a statement. “For far too long, minorities have been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited.”
The lack of diversity among dispensary owners and growers is an oft-publicized issue by state governments and lobbyists in legal cannabis markets. In the past few years, Massachusetts wrote equity-related provisions into its cannabis regulations, and Oakland created a program to promote cannabis entrepreneurship among minority and low-income residents.
The booming industry, spurred by recreational legalization in 15 states and Washington D.C., has been a magnet for athlete investors.
- In 2019, NFL legend Joe Montana’s venture firm invested $75 million in California cannabis company Caliva.
- Ricky Williams, Calvin Johnson and Rob Gronkowski have all invested in cannabis funds, as have Mike Tyson and John Salley. Former Seattle Supersonics star Shawn Kemp stocks former teammate Gary Payton’s Cookie brand cannabis at his dispensary in the city.
At the beginning of February, senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement promising to “advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation” and “enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”