Gumbo Brands in the Spotlight!

Stephen Andrews
30 Dec 2021

Gumbo Brands is a Black-owned cannabis lifestyle and apparel brand founded by Bronx-native Karim "Luka Brazi" Butler, who made a name for himself working with hip hop collective Dipset. A renowned cannabis cultivator and a racial justice warrior, Butler runs Gumbo Brands along with his fiance Alexis Major. The pair is invested in helping young black people as well as NFL players cut the use of dangerous opioids. Their greater mission is to build a stronger and wealthier community.

The rapid spread of cannabis legalization in recent years resulted in a bombastic rise of cannabis businesses nationwide. However, only a small chunk of these businesses belong to people of color. In 2017, only 4.3% of US marijuana businesses were Black, while 81% were white. A correction may be on its way, however, proper integration of black-owned companies — or those most affected by the War on Drugs — into the cannabis industry, is far from being a mission accomplished.

Asked in a recent interview with AllHipHop to describe Gumbo, the "Hustle Man" as Butler is affectionately known, proudly answers: "GUMBO is a black-owned cannabis brand, which I own. We're expanding and extending our portfolio with merch and building everything. We're showing people that not only are we the #1 and most consistent in the flower, but the brand itself reached another pinnacle as far as the culture and hip-hop. GUMBO is a pot full of love. It's culture, it's Hip Hop. It's everything. It's the youth. We're transforming them."

He added: "We're getting them off this lean and opioids, giving them some good pot! We don't want them to be leaned up, perked up, drinking fentanyl and poppin' pills. We want to lean them towards health, we're more towards the flower. We're using it as a tool to save the community and the young black race." 

Helping NFL players

Buttler and his spouse Major hope their strain — an indica whose genetics remain undisclosed — can also help NFL players cope with pain. The strain is a mix "of a whole bunch of good diff things in one pot," Butler describes.

Major acts as Gumbo's chief financial officer and is a former sports manager and agent with interest in helping NFL players who end up hooked on opiates so they can sustain another Sunday. Such malpractice has proven tragic for some players in the past, and marijuana is increasingly being seen as a way to help players deal with injuries or recover from surgeries. 

Major has considerable experience working with NFL players, including her sibling, NFL star Jordan Reed, and has personally witnessed prescribed opioids' harmful effects on players.

"What I noticed is a lot of the players were becoming addicted to opiates. When you know you have athletes that play contact sports, especially gladiators such as football players, there's a lot of injury," Major said in a recent interview with Black Enterprise. 

Major said their strain helped NFL defensive tackle Dominique Easley stay away from opioid use. Easley is nowadays himself invested in cannabis entrepreneurship and wellbeing advocacy. 

However, despite cannabis being known to help NFL players she manages, Major has pointed out to a familiar problem concerning any player who returns a positive test on THC use. Players often face hefty fines or exclusion from the league.

"The marijuana was 100% effective. The only problem was that for the NFL, marijuana is illegal, and it costs the player anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million, depending on what their contract is. That's how much they're fined for testing dirty for marijuana," said Major. 

She added: "Not only did we have to find the marijuana to get them off these heavy drugs that they're able to do, then we had to figure out how to mask the marijuana for them not to test positive."

"We're talking about cannabis. It doesn't help the enhancement of the player. It doesn't do anything to help them be better on the field," she said. "But it helps save their lives."

NFL authorities are merely beginning to shift their views on cannabis use.

Community building

Witnessing firsthand the life-changing effects cannabis has on NFL players, Major and Butler are further inspired to bring more inclusion and more diversity to the budding sector.

"What Luka and I are doing is helping others and educating others about getting into the cannabis business because the only way that we're going to be able to level the playing field is by helping everyone get some type of wealth," Major said.

As part of their mission, Butler and Major organized a two-day pop-up during the hip-hop concert Rolling Loud New York in late October. The pop-up grossed $250,000 in merchandise sales for Gumbo. 

"We wanted everyone to come out from our communities and come get a piece of Gumbo whether it be the sneaker, whether it be a t-shirt, whether it be a hoodie," said Major. "We're here in the community, and we're taking at-risk youth and teaching them about the cannabis industry."

"I see young people involved in aggressive activities and using strong narcotics. I wanted to contribute something to the community that would keep the youth and anyone else from becoming addicted to drugs," said Butler.

Stephen Andrews