Diddy Makes a Big Move Into Cannabis Game With $185 Million Purchase of Major Pot Players

Sean “P. Diddy” Combs never does anything halfway. On Friday (Nov. 4) the music/fashion/sprits/media mogul announced that he plans to make a major investment in the legal marijuana game with a $185 million deal to buy licensed weed operations in three states.

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If approved, the deal would create the nation’s largest Black-owned and licensed cannabis company, a platform Diddy said he wants to use to increase Black participation in the field.

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“It’s diabolical,” Combs, 53, told the Wall Street Journal about his desire to get into the pot business to help address long-running inequities that have seen Black people disproportionately arrested and jailed for marijuana crimes even as they make up a “tiny” percentage of the market for legal weed. “How do you lock up communities of people, break down their family structure, their futures, and then legalize it and make sure that those same people don’t get a chance to benefit or resurrect their lives from it?”

The Journal noted that in the quarter century since California first legalized medical marijuana cannabis has grown into a $27 billion legal business in the U.S. even as many Black entrepreneurs looking to get into the mix have said they’ve faced obstacles in finding financing, capital and banking services; Black cannabis entrepreneurs currently account for less than 2% of the nation’s marijuana businesses, which employs around 500,000 people.

“Two percent?” Diddy said. “All the years, all the pain, all the incarceration… To me, it was important to do a big deal like this.”

Related video: California broadens pot eradication effort

Diddy will dive in by purchasing the cannabis operations of Cresco Labs Inc. (valued at $1 billion) and Columbia Care Inc. (valued at $500 million), two of the biggest cannabis companies in the country. The buy-in — which includes a $110 million cash payment and $45 million in debt financing — will give the Bad Boy boss nine retail stores and three production facilities in New York, Massachusetts and Illinois, according to a release announcing the deal.

“My mission has always been to create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in industries where we’ve traditionally been denied access, and this acquisition provides the immediate scale and impact needed to create a more equitable future in cannabis,” said Combs in a statement. “Owning the entire process — from growing and manufacturing to marketing, retail, and wholesale distribution — is a historic win for the culture that will allow us to empower diverse leaders throughout the ecosystem and be bold advocates for inclusion.”

The operations in the three states will give Combs the ability to grow and manufacture cannabis products and wholesale and distribute those branded products to licensed dispensaries in major metro areas including New York, Boston and Chicago, as well as operate retail stores in all three states.

“Today’s announcement is bigger than the Transaction – and it couldn’t come at a time of greater significance and momentum,” said Cresco Labs CEO Charles Bachtell in a statement. “We’ve seen executive power exercised to address matters of cannabis injustice, we’re seeing bi-partisan support for elements of federal reform, and we’re seeing some of the largest and most influential states in the country launch cannabis programs prioritizing social responsibility – this announcement adds to that momentum.”

Bachtell noted that the transaction is a major step toward closing his company’s previously announced acquisition of Columbia Care and their push for greater diversity of leadership and perspective in the market. “The substantial presence of a minority-owned operator in some of the most influential markets in the country being led by one of the most prolific and impactful entrepreneurs of our time is momentous… and incredibly exciting. We’re thrilled to welcome Sean and his team to the industry,” he said.

Columbia CEO Nicholas Vita added that, “These assets offer the Combs’ team significant market presence, enabling them to make the most impact on the industry as a whole. It’s been clear to us that Sean has the right team to carry on the strong legacy of these Columbia Care and Cresco Labs facilities, and we can’t wait to see how he helps shape the cannabis industry going forward through his entrepreneurial leadership and innovation.”

Though marijuana is legal in 19 states for recreational use by adults and in 39 states for medical use it is still illegal under federal law.

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