Brendon Roberts is a 6’4 black man with locs and the sing-song cadence of the islands. His image cannot help but conjure up a host of preconceived notions associated with criminality that he has worked hard to out-perform.
As the son of a leading ganja farmer in Dominica, Roberts spent his early life learning and growing on the farm. He took his love of the earth and her plants to the next level, obtaining an Associates Degree, of Applied agricultural sciences at Dominica State College. He then came to Canada to study International Agriculture Development at University of Guelph.
It’s the marriage of the practical knowledge of the land, along with the scientific and institutional understanding of the processes of plant life and production, that make him such a successful and in-demand Grower, occupying leadership positions in corporate cannabis all across the country.
“I’ve never applied for a job once,” he said, currently a leading ‘Master Grower’ in British Colombia.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, despite making up only 31% of the population, Black and Latin-x people accounted for about half of all cannabis related offences. Today, between 80% – 90% of owners in the industry are white.
Canada has yet to collect and share similar raced-based numbers since the beginning of legalization.
Working in the cannabis space as a member of the criminalized class poses its own challenges.
“It’s a constant battle and struggle to know our children, our siblings, were arrested for cannabis, and could not have sold these things to pay their bills…then here in modern day society, we have collectively allowed the government to pay their bills with the same plant,” he said thoughtfully.
He believes all communities of colour, particularly activists, have a crucial role in speaking to the marginalization and oppression at the hands of prohibition, to ensure inequities and inequalities are appropriately addressed.
“We have to raise the awareness in our community, particularly the business community, to increase credible investment that will allow us as a people to continue to push black excellence in cannabis…The business community has a special part to play along with our agri-experts…to broaden and deepen networks across our global community.”
While he continues to perfect his craft and grow both as a person and a professional within the industry, he looks ahead with hope and inspiration at the potential that lives within the industry.
“I think the black community is perfectly poised to take advantage of the moment by sharing the knowledge and traditions of our elders,” he said.
He sees now as an opportunity to provide hope to the next generation through leading the way and chartering a path of excellence.
He bookends our conversation with one of his favourites mottos: “You inspire, then aspire, then perspire, and then you retire.”