To celebrate Black History Month, Emjay will be doing spotlights on Black-owned cannabis brands and featuring them on our blog, email, and social channels. Each feature will aim to highlight the brand’s journey over the years and showcase how they got to where they are today.
Southern California native Chris Ball began selling cannabis as a teen to put himself through junior college, where he played football. He later went on to play at UC Berkeley on a scholarship, a brief stint in the NFL, and eventually entered the Canadian Football League. While in Canada, Ball discovered the cultivation side of cannabis. With no prior knowledge of the craft, he began his self-taught botany education and fell in love with the plant. After burning up plants for over a year, Ball got the hang of cultivation and started growing unique strains that were a hit amongst Prop D consumers. Ball quickly made a name for himself. In 2016, after hearing about the social equity program, Ball applied for a license, and in 2018 Ball Family Farms (BFF) was founded as one of the first vertically integrated, black-owned, commercial indoor grow facilities in Los Angeles.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges you faced building your business?
A: There have been many challenges, but one of the biggest has been navigating the system. Charles, my brother and CFO, and I spent hours at City Hall trying to figure out how to apply for and get all of the documentation needed for the social equity license. We’d go to one room, and they’d send us to another. We’d wait in line for hours only to be sent to yet another room or person. It was a confusing nightmare. And those same issues have remained throughout this process. For example, say an A/C unit goes out in one of our grow rooms. We have a limited amount of time to get it fixed before losing the room; cannabis is a plant, after all. But the City doesn’t have a “fast pass,” so we wait for them to send out an inspector and get the correct permit and sign off, etc. before we can make a change. It’s oppressive and ultimately damages our business. Several things like this are daily challenges, not to mention the exorbitant taxes levied on cannabis, making it increasingly difficult for brands to operate in the black.
How would you sum up the story your brand is telling?
My brand tells a simple story. We’re a black family-owned and operated craft cannabis company led by an ex-convict and traditional market kingpin. Ball Family Farms cares about the quality of the flower and the consumer experience while breaking down stereotypes and re-educating the way the world perceives cannabis.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed or experienced in the cannabis industry over the years?
The most significant industry changes I’ve experienced are the drop in the price of cannabis and the drastic genetic changes. And the stigma of cannabis is waning, and conservatives more widely accept cannabis.
What do you see as the most important role of cannabis in our culture?
The most critical role of cannabis is to give individuals who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs an opportunity to participate in a legal framework. The opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and their families to help change western medicine for the better.
What are your proudest accomplishments with your brand and/or business?
I’m proud that Ball Family Farms is still here, relevant four years later and recognizable nationwide. And that I’m considered a trusted voice in cannabis for people of color and social equity.
Oklahoma is next, our first multi-state operation. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to duplicate the success we’ve had in California.