By Chloe Aiello
From an NFL player to a TV personality ー and now a Broadway performer in the musical "Kinky Boots" ー Tiki Barber has enjoyed an eccentric career. And now he's adding marijuana executive to his quirky résumé.
Together with business partner Kevin Shin, the ex-Giants player co-founded Grove Group Management in mid-October. The cannabis investment company aims to provide expertise in finance, legal and compliance issues, product development, marketing, operations and retail to the businesses they invest in, according to their site. Barber also said the company is looking to create a "retail model" that will spread state-by-state, starting in New Jersey.
"Hopefully by 2020, when cannabis becomes legal, federally legal in this country, we can grow across the country. Small businesses are going to be the driving force behind it," he said. "And I think it's opportunistic for a lot of minority communities, a lot of communities in general, and we want to be on the front edge of that."
Minority communities are disproportionately impacted by marijuana convictions. According to the Innocence Project, from Jan. through Mar. 2018, 93 percent of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were people of color, even though the rates of drug use do not differ substantially by race or ethnicity. Grove Group wants to help individuals who were hurt by the criminalization of pot by looking past misdemeanor marijuana convictions when hiring.
"As we launch these stores state-by-state, we have a commitment to basically not look at past marijuana convictions, and [those with convictions] will be welcome to work in our stores. We want to make sure that we are representing the minority community. It is true to my heart, it is true to Tiki's heart," Shin said.
Barber said he initially became interested in marijuana during his career as an athlete, where he said he mostly saw the "punitive side" of cannabis use.
"When I retired I became an opportunist," Barber said.
Barber met Shin, whose background is in venture capital and financial services, at a political event. As the two discussed the marijuana industry, the shifting political climate, and the social justice potential in the burgeoning marijuana industry, Barber said he began to recognize the opportunities in that space. In their business ventures, the two said they want to help move the industry forward.
"Social progress is what we're calling this. We've seen [marijuana] criminalization destroy lives and destroy communities," Barber said. As decriminalization and legalization measures are passed, he said "then the social progress needs to change for those who have been wrongly convicted."
For full interview click here.