Launch Dayton’s Startup Week kicked off on Monday, featuring speakers and panels geared toward new entrepreneurs. Local cannabis entrepreneur Nickole Ross sat for a panel and spoke on the difficulties that people of color have breaking into the cannabis industry.

Ross started her own medical marijuana processing center in Dayton two years ago. It’s called Noohra Labs, and they make cannabis infused products like food and gummies.

Ross started out in the medicinal cannabis industry seven years ago, when she co-founded Elevation VIP in Los Angeles, which specialized in infusing cannabis into fine dining.

In 2015, she moved back home to Ohio. She opened up Noohra Labs in January 2019, right after Dayton decriminalized minor marijuana offenses. They were one of six medicinal marijuana sites to open in the Miami Valley.

“At that point in time I was able to do a lot of research and really have an understanding of what cannabis is not just from a leisure use, but from a medicine perspective,” Ross said.

While medicinal cannabis is decriminalized in Ohio, it is still illegal federally. So business owners like Ross are unable to receive small business loans to get started. This, she says, puts many members of the Black community looking to get into the cannabis industry at a financial disadvantage.

“If you don’t have the liquidity to show that you have thousands, millions of dollars to be able to operate a business you can’t participate in the cannabis program and a lot of underrepresented communities don’t have the financial wherewithal,” Ross said.

Her goal with Noohra Labs is to create a pathway for more Black and minority business owners. Ross plans to host a local, educational event highlighting racial inequities within the industry sometime in October.