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How LOWD Founder Jesce Horton Built A Multimillion-Dollar Cannabis Brand After Being A Casualty Of The War On Drugs

Here's how LOWD founder Jesce Horton built a multimillion-dollar cannabis brand after being a casualty of the war on drugs:

7/31/2021 12:00:00 PM

Here's how LOWD founder Jesce Horton built a multimillion-dollar cannabis brand after being a casualty of the war on drugs:

As a Black man in America, the 38-year-old entrepreneur endured arrests, drug tests and other obstacles before marijuana laws started changing. Now he grows some of Oregon’s best bud.

having a say in legislation and business development. He and his family know all too well how cannabis prohibition has systematically targeted Black and brown communities across America for decades. Due to the racial disparities of drug enforcement, Black and brown people

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 are 3.73 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana than white people, even though usage rates are similar.Diverse Buds: Horton and LOWD cofounder Dave Murray built a company focused on giving back to communities who have been harmed by America's cannabis prohibition.

LOWD.comDespite his parents’ best efforts, Horton was first arrested for cannabis at 18 and continued to have minor runs with the police throughout the next few years.  His affinity for marijuana stayed with him through his adult life, but he wasn’t a slacker. In 2002, he attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a historically Black university in Tallahassee, where he majored in industrial engineering and minored in mathematics and physics. headtopics.com

During college, he interned for General Electric for three consecutive summers, but missed out on a full-time opportunity after failing a drug test. But like his father, he didn’t let adversity get in the way of his plans. Horton got a job at Siemens in their leadership development program and went to work at the company’s headquarters in Munich, Germany. On the weekends, he spent his time in Amsterdam, sampling cannabis at the city’s famed coffee shops.

Horton cold-called and emailed some 2,000 potential investors in the cannabis industry. He got no responses. In 2013, Horton took a transfer to Portland, just when the legal cannabis industry was sprouting in Oregon. Dissatisfied with his work at Siemens, he decided to grow a little herb in his basement. It was only a matter of time before he fully dedicated his professional life to growing cannabis. After just over a year in Portland, he quit his role at Siemens. He called his mother and broke the news, she hung up on him.

Horton immediately began to look for funding. After cold-calling and emailing some 2,000 contacts from a list of potential investors in the cannabis industry, he got no responses. “There was a lot of bootstrapping in there,” says Horton on his early days after Siemens. “Those 2,000 investors, they didn't know me. I didn't have the intrinsic qualities, maybe that they wanted, that helped them get to know me, or maybe help them see themselves in me.”  

Eventually, he found a solution from an unlikely source—his father. James Horton agreed to invest $30,000 in the nascent business and Jesce then approached friends and family, putting together a funding round entirely made up of people of color. His parents and a few other family members, each with a pair of scissors in hand, helped him trim off the buds for his first harvest.  headtopics.com

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To save money, Horton has been using his training as an engineer to build efficient facilities. Today, LOWD cultivates cannabis in a 7,500-square-foot indoor grow operation.        Craft Cannabis: As many marijuana markets are dominated by corporate firms focused on maximum yield, LOWD produces craft cannabis in small batches.

CannacribsAnd like most cannabis entrepreneurs, Horton is devoted to paying forward what he has sown. He has helped start two nonprofits focusing on social, legal, and equity-based cannabis reform. Horton and his wife, Jeannette, launched theNuLeaf Project

, which has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s, Scotts Miracle Gro and Portland, and has given $1 million in grants and zero-percent interest loans to Black and brown entrepreneurs running cannabis companies. By focusing on gathering capital, providing education and exposure, and making connections for future entrepreneurs, NuLeaf wants to build intergenerational wealth for communities that have been most affected by unfair cannabis laws and practices in the past.         

Horton also helped create theMinority Cannabis Business Association, which promotes economic empowerment in communities of color by helping create policy, social programming, and outreach initiatives. “[We’re] utilizing cannabis tax funds to execute real community benefits,” Horton says, “regardless of their connection to cannabis.” headtopics.com

Today, decades after his life took a detour before college, James Horton is proud of the work his son does. But Jesce Horton also knows there is much work to be done to make the industry more diverse.       Read more: Forbes »

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