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How Roz McCarthy of Black Buddha grew an enlightened brand out of disaster

In 2016, when Roz McCarthy heard that medical cannabis was coming to Florida, her first thought was of her son, who suffers from sickle cell anemia—a genetic disorder that disproportionately affects Black Americans—and the relief that cannabis could provide. Next, she considered the potential impact the industry could have on her community. “I thought communities of color would be disproportionately left out—that was the push to get me off my butt,” she says, and it wasn’t long before her nonprofit Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana took off. 

As advocates for prosperity, equity, and health in minority communities, their community outreach opened people’s minds to a career in a business many people had grown up demonizing. After generating interest, M4MM offered programs to educate industry newcomers to the ins and outs of pursuing a license. Cannabis Boot Camp workshops provided intensive training on the application process. But above all, they spread the message far and wide that the cannabis industry cannot leave minorities out of the equation. 

As the founder and CEO of Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana, McCarthy tends to think big. “I knew I wanted to create a hub for minority leaders who wanted to inhabit all parts of the cannabis ecosystem,” she says. Today M4MM has 27 chapters nationwide, as well as three international chapters in the UK, Canada, and Jamaica. One of the keys to her success has been her ability to bring people together around shared goals. “I had to get people seeing my vision,” she says. “Being able to articulate your vision and create a roadmap is so essential.” 

M4MM also has two chapters at historically Black colleges—Florida A and M University in Tallahassee and Southern University in Baton Rouge—which McCarthy sees as a perfect union. The law students there have a chance to get involved in the organization’s expungement clinic, and the M4MM network embraces students looking to start their careers in cannabis. “Our program Ready Set Grow matches HBCU students with paid internship opportunities,” McCarthy explains. In turn, the strong community solidarity both on and off campus is key to extending the organization’s reach. “HBCUs are great because the alumni are so strong,” she says. You’ll always keep celebrating with that school at homecomings and football games, so not only do we talk to students but alumni get a chance to be excited about what we’re doing.”

But a year ago, her world turned upside down when a car collision led to a traumatic brain injury that she is still struggling to recover from. Fortunately, all the love she’d been showing for cannabis came right back her way, accompanied by a new spiritual vision. “When I was incapacitated for four weeks, I had a caregiver who brought me back to life by using cannabis, mantras, and meditation.” For a woman who talks fast and thinks on her feet, the change of pace was a serious adjustment, and without the cannabis, she doubts her ability to access the right mental strategies to make it through rough spells. “Whenever there was a fight or flight in my brain I would pass out—a total nightmare,” she says, remembering it with a wince. “I was taking CBD around the clock, and it helped me learn to breathe through it.” 

Most people would probably take such a disastrous life event as a sign to take a break from the fast-paced business world, but Roz McCarthy’s version of taking it easy was to start her own cannabis brand to pass along her wellness secrets to those who are suffering. “The powerful part is that Black Buddha cannabis just came to me during the darkest time, when I was figuring out how to get my brain back,” says McCarthy. 

Considering that Black Buddha has been off to a running start since its October launch, her brain appears to be firing on all cylinders. Black Buddha is in talks to move into five states: Ohio, Michigan, California, Nevada, and Massachusetts. Gummies will hit the market first, followed by pre-packs of medical flower designed to be smoked morning, noon, or night, with Relaxation, Creativity, Wellness, and Enlightenment blends on offer. 

Ohio is the first place customers can “get enlightened,” as the tagline puts it. McCarthy is delighted to find herself working with a fellow Black cannabis professional, yet another realization of her original vision of national minority solidarity. “Ohio is so dope because the operating department is an African American,” she says, clearly excited by the accomplishments of others. Now it’s her turn to get community support, and considering everything she’s invested in the success of others, Black Buddha’s karma is exactly where it needs to be to become a runaway hit. 

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