Former NBA Star Chris Webber Launches $100 Million Cannabis Fund with JW Asset Management
Former NBA All-Star Chris Webber has teamed up cannabis investor Jason Wild, the founder of New York based investment firm JW Asset Management, to launch a $100 million private equity fund for minority cannabis business owners.
Announced Tuesday, the fund will “level the playing field” for BIPOC entrepreneurs who want to break into the booming cannabis industry but lack the access to funding and resources typically available to wealthier white founders.
"The legal cannabis industry can only grow to its full potential when all stakeholders have a seat at the table,” Wild said via a news release. “I feel that it is my responsibility to play an active role in eliminating barriers to entry for individuals that have been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs."
According to the release, the fund will invest in cannabis startups run by people from underrepresented communities and “provide them with an ecosystem of business resources that will facilitate research and development (R & D), cultivation, retail licensing, distribution, branding and marketing.”
"For far too long, minorities have been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited,” Webber said via the release. “Working with JW, we will equip underrepresented entrepreneurs with the financial resources and industry knowledge to build businesses and thrive."
In an interview with CNBC, Webber and Wild said the goal is to give BIPOC entrepreneurs a chance to succeed in the U.S. cannabis industry, which was estimated to be worth $18.3 billion in 2020.
“Some of them will have the ability to go public or to sell to other companies,” Wild told CNBC.
While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, 15 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the plant for adults over the age of 21. Medical marijuana is also legal in 36 states.
New Frontier Data projects that existing legal cannabis markets will generate a combined $41.5 billion in sales by 2025.
However, a majority of that revenue will go to companies owned and operated by white entrepreneurs.
"It's crucial that we diversify leadership within the cannabis industry and level the playing field for people from our communities," Webber said.
Indeed, as Leafly notes, “the cannabis industry must show true commitment to equity as it expands, so the wealth generated by this new opportunity will uplift minority communities.”
Webber isn’t the only prominent Black celebrity to support up-and-coming minority cannabis entrepreneurs.
In November, The Parent Company tapped rapper Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to lead its “Social Equity Ventures” division and oversee an initial $10 million investment in minority-owned and Black-owned cannabis businesses.
That same month, California-based online cannabis marketplace and delivery service Eaze partnered with NBA star Matt Barnes to launch its “Momentum” accelerator program that provides grant money and business education to Black, POC, Indigenous, LGBTQ, female, and veteran cannabis entrepreneurs.
Former NBA star Al Harrington, who founded the cannabis company Viola Brands, also launched an incubator program in October that aims to create 100 Black millionaires within the marijuana industry.
Wild runs JW Asset Management, which has more than $2 billion in assets under management and has actively invested in legal cannabis businesses since 2014.
Webber, a five-time NBA All-Star who is perhaps best known as a member of Michigan's "Fab Five," co-founded a namesake health and wellness company focused on using "cannabis and CBD as alternative solutions to manage pain relief and support recovery."
Additional information is available in the news release below.
Chris Webber and JW Asset Management Team Up to Launch $100 Million Cannabis Impact Fund
NEW YORK — Chris Webber, entrepreneur, five-time NBA All-Star and Founder of Webber Wellness, today announced a partnership with Jason Wild and JW Asset Management, LLC ("JW") to launch a $100 million private equity cannabis fund that will invest in companies led by entrepreneurs of color pursuing careers in the cannabis sector.
"As our country moves closer to federal legalization, I believe it is more important than ever to empower the next generation of cannabis leaders in a tangible way," said Webber. "I'm thrilled to team up with Jason on this endeavor — he's a visionary in this industry and understands the urgency of supporting minority business leaders in this space."
Webber Wellness and JW Asset Management will collaborate to invest in underrepresented entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and provide them with an ecosystem of business resources that will facilitate research and development (R & D), cultivation, retail licensing, distribution, branding and marketing. JW has been an active investor in the cannabis industry since 2014 with over $2 billion in assets under management, investing in numerous industry leaders spanning multistate operators, technology and retail companies.
Despite growing mainstream demand for legal cannabis, BIPOC entrepreneurs have been largely shut out of business opportunities due to social and financial barriers. According to a report from Marijuana Business Daily, over 80% of cannabis businesses are owned by white people, while less than 10% are owned by Black and Hispanic people. This partnership aims to address these racial disparities and provide entrepreneurs of color access to a burgeoning industry projected to reach $130 billion by 2024.
"It's crucial that we diversify leadership within the cannabis industry and level the playing field for people from our communities," said Webber. "For far too long, minorities have been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited. Working with JW, we will equip underrepresented entrepreneurs with the financial resources and industry knowledge to build businesses and thrive."
"The legal cannabis industry can only grow to its full potential when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, and I feel that it is my responsibility to play an active role in eliminating barriers to entry for individuals that have been disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs," said Jason Wild, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of JW Asset Management. "I look forward to partnering with Chris and his team to elevate talented entrepreneurs and build a more inclusive industry."
About JW Asset Management:
JW Asset Management is a New York based fund manager with combined assets under management in excess of $2 billion. Jason Wild, the firm's founder and Chief Investment Officer, is a registered pharmacist and Chairman of Arbor Pharmaceuticals and TerrAscend Corp. JW Asset Management has a history of finding attractive investment opportunities across the healthcare and cannabis industries and actively invests in both public and private markets.
About Webber Wellness:
Webber Wellness is a health and wellness company that explores Cannabis and CBD as alternative solutions to manage pain relief and support recovery. The company was co-founded by five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber and DADA Footwear co-founder/CEO Lavetta Willis, who are both longtime cannabis and CBD advocates and are committed to disrupting the health and wellness industry with innovation, creativity and strategic execution.