Starting any business is hard. It takes vision, discipline and execution. Kevin Ford, founder of Uplift Maryland, knows this all too well and his platform is changing the medical cannabis industry.
Ford sits down with us to discuss more about Uplift Maryland, his goals and the opportunities he’s looking to create through this platform.
Changing the Medical Cannabis Industry: Where Ford Began
BE: Growing up in a medical family, did you always want to pursue medicine, or did that individual passion of yours grow once you got older and developed an idea of what you wanted to do?
Ford: It was the opposite for me. Since my entire family studied medicine, I wanted to explore other options and career paths that existed other than just the medical field. When I entered college, I decided to study Business and Marketing, and here’s where I took a keen interest in the medical cannabis industry.
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BE: Once you began studying the cannabis market more, what steps did you take towards creating Uplift Maryland?
Ford: Being a consumer myself, I was intrigued by what business opportunities could come from a sector like this one. In college I watched markets like Colorado and Washington closely in hopes I would have the opportunity to mix my entrepreneurial spirit with cannabis in a legal, medical market in Maryland.
My experience in using cannabis as a commodity and my passion for minority business development pushed me to found Uplift Maryland, a one-stop-shop for information on Maryland’s cannabis industry, and soon to be a platform that expands nationwide.
BE: What are some challenges or stigmas you face being an advocate for something that a lot of people tend to oppose?
Ford: We face the challenges you would expect to face when dealing with cannabis. At Uplift Maryland, we’re striving to change the way communities view cannabis. With the stigmas already set in place through propaganda and unjust drug policies, we face challenges like increasing equitable opportunity, securing funding, and the continuity of unjust drug policies. Cannabis is legal medically in 33 states, and the number continues to rise.
Unfortunately, with Maryland being a closed market state, we are unable to provide the full services we seek to offer at Uplift. The only way to overcome these issues is to create more opportunities or relocate to an area where that opportunity exists.
Cannabis in the Black Community
BE: We’ve seen that the use of cannabis has it racial disparities, heightening the unjust arrests and incarcerations of those in the black community. How important is it for you to change that and what are some steps you’re taking with Uplift Maryland that can make it more accessible for black people to enter this space?
Ford: We’re taking several steps to ensure our voices are heard in the cannabis industry when it comes to topics like racial disparities and unjust incarcerations.
My team and I spent this year lobbying in Maryland to put ourselves at the forefront of these conversations. That way, people who benefit from cannabis or have been oppressed by unjust drug policies can be included in these crucial conversations of adult-use legalization.
BE: What are a few steps you think our criminal justice system can take towards implementing a more comprehensive drug reform to lessen these racial inequities?
Ford: The most significant step would be to deschedule cannabis and make it a non-arrestable offense. I believe it’s inappropriately scheduled as a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance next to Heroine and is deemed more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamines, which are Schedule II. Cannabis should be removed from the Schedule entirely as it has been proven to have many medical uses.
Law enforcement also often uses cannabis as a means for both character defamation and traffic stops, leading to arrests for other unrelated charges. The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, which is a legal metaphor used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally, has caused many to be incarcerated due to poor legal representation, and I personally believe that our fight for mass expungement of cases should include those that have been created because of unlawful evidence should also be expunged.
These initial steps can and will dramatically change the lives of people of color who have systematically been targeted by our criminal justice system.
Inspirations and Future Goals
BE: From the creation of Uplift Maryland up until now, how have you stayed inspired throughout it all? What keeps you going?
Ford: My inspiration comes from my family. Growing up within so much, Black Excellence always pushed me to want to achieve something great, while always remembering to lift as I climb. Also, the fact that I have so many exceptional individuals in front and behind me that continue to support me on this journey helps me stay inspired.
I have never been one to give up, and with encouraging words from those who support me, I know that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I’m not only pushing myself to succeed for me, but for all the other people that look like me and look up to me.
BE:What is your 10-year plan for Uplift Maryland? What have you been manifesting or what are some goals you’d like to achieve?
Ford: In the next ten years, our goal is to become a multi-state, vertically-integrated operator. We still envision operating a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified medical cannabis facility that specializes in research and training those most affected by the war on drugs for the employment opportunities that lie within the industry, across the country. Nationwide, the legalized cannabis industry has failed to include people of color, and we’re fighting hard to change that. Although license applications are tied up with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, we’ve had our sights on acquiring licenses that are already operational in Maryland, and have been working hard to bring this to fruition.
Get Involved With Uplift Maryland
To learn more about Uplift Maryland, visit their newly launched Community Series that is intended to combat the stigma by educating disadvantaged communities on various aspects of Maryland’s medical cannabis industry. Follow Kevin and Uplift on Instagram to stay updated on the future launch of their subscription service for minority entrepreneurs looking to break into this lucrative industry.