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Updated: March 4, 2024 / 2024 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year: Youngblood uses his marijuana business to drive social change

a man stand with arms crossed Photo | Matt Wright Ulysses Youngblood, president of Major Bloom

In his own words, Ulysses Youngblood is relentless and obsessed. And those qualities have paid off for the entrepreneur. Just off Kelley Square, on a quiet street in Worcester's Green Island neighborhood, sits the fruits of years of his labor: Major Bloom.

As a self-proclaimed kid of the cannabis culture, Youngblood opened the doors of his impact-driven cannabis dispensary in 2021 – just five years after the drug was legalized for adult recreational use in Massachusetts.

Major Bloom’s opening was historic as it became one of two Worcester dispensaries to be owned by a person of color and one of the very few Black-owned dispensaries in the country. At the time Major Bloom opened, 10% of U.S. cannabis businesses were owned by people of color, with Black owners making up 2%, according to a 2021 survey from the publication Marijuana Business Daily.

A bio box for Ulysses Youngblood
A bio box for Ulysses Youngblood

“You look at the data, and you just know that people of color have been demonized for this plant,” Youngblood said. “There is no detaching that the cannabis legal industry is on the backs of Black and brown people. Because they have been in jail, they have been arrested, their neighborhoods have been ridden down on by local police.”

Just about a year after opening, Major Bloom broke barriers again by becoming the first recreational weed delivery service approved in Worcester. But in what has become known as Youngblood’s modus operandi, he didn’t stop at completing his own milestone; he worked to make the same accomplishments more accessible to others.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission enforces a strict two-driver rule mandating two workers must be present in the car during cannabis deliveries. Knowing the extra burden this placed on marijuana delivery businesses in an industry with an already extremely high barrier to entry, Youngblood met with all four of the CCC commissioners in 2023 to advocate for a rewrite of the regulations and remove the two-driver rule. In December, the commissioners voted 3-1 to start the process do change the rule to just one driver.

Youngblood has become an example for others in the industry to follow, said Patrik Jonsson, founder of cannabis dispensary Higher Collective in Connecticut and former executive of multi-state operator Curaleaf, which is headquartered in Wakefield.

“Ulysses has been a champion of minorities in the cannabis community and has put his blood, sweat, and tears into giving back,” Jonsson said in an email to WBJ. “By being a successful and public leader … he has become a role model for many other young entrepreneurs.”

Youngblood’s impact has reverberated throughout Central Massachusetts and beyond. He gives speeches on cannabis at colleges throughout the Northeast.

“He has gone from an industry advocate, focused on education and culture, to being a sought out small business leader that gets featured on some of the leading cannabis publications in the world,” he said.

Being around cannabis from an early age and watching the industry develop as the drug became legalized informed Youngblood’s views on marijuana: as a vehicle for social progress.

“Cannabis is a change agent,” he said. “Of course, people love the plant for the scientific and the medicinal values of it. People love the economics behind it … but at the end of it, all that fits within the conduit of change. I see society changing as a whole because of cannabis.”

This theme of communal change permeates every aspect of Major Bloom. The company has a goal to recruit 80% of its workforce from disenfranchised communities.

“It’s about really understanding people’s stories,” Youngblood said. “Meaning where they grew up, what school they went to, their personal involvement with cannabis whether it’s a family member being arrested or them themselves being arrested … it really starts with hiring locally.”

Major Bloom is curating a community menu, a cohort of products created with local businesses. The company most recently teamed up with the Worcester lesbian and queer Femme Bar to create an herbal pre-roll supporting women’s menstrual cycles while acting as an aphrodisiac. The dispensary hosted a holiday toy drive in partnership with the Green Island Neighborhood Center and a Thanksgiving food drive.

“You can be a profitable company, and you still have a responsibility to do social good,” said Youngblood. “It’s not really about the cannabis, per se. It’s about the change … I want to be on the right side of history; and I want my kids to know that they can be on the right side of history, and they can have their part in it too.”

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