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The Black women redefining California’s cannabis market – one curated store at a time

A focus on open, inviting and community-centric interiors aims at appealing to a broad range of Black customers, including elders.

Lois Beckett @loisbeckett  •  Wed 20 Apr 2022 06.00 EDT

When Kika Keith and her daughter opened a cannabis dispensary in South Los Angeles last year, they faced a design challenge: how could they create a store where older Black customers, who had seen all the ravages of the “war on drugs”, would feel comfortable making a purchase?

It had been a tough battle for Keith to open a dispensary as a Black woman, in a post-legalized marijuana market where most of the business owners had become white men. She and her daughter, Kika Howze, wanted their store, Gorilla Rx Wellness Co  to reflect their focus on neighborhood investment and their hip-hop aesthetic.

But they didn’t want to emulate the sleek hip-hop branding of youth-focused cannabis companies like Cookies or Stiizy, the kind of “shiny” dispensaries that had “music videos playing with girls’ breasts out”, as Keith put it.

They would have Los Angeles-born hip-hop stars like Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q on their soundtrack, but they wanted their dispensary to feel like a grocery store, with products more reminiscent of a Whole Foods vitamin aisle.

“We want to model what a community-first dispensary looks like, and at the head of our community is our elders,” Keith said.

More than five years after California voters approved the sale of recreational marijuana, the legal weed market still faces plenty of economic and social challenges. But there’s also a wide variety of legal dispensaries across the state working to erase the stigma of criminalization and attract new cannabis consumers.

What California’s legal marijuana stores actually look and feel like has been a key part of that redefinition. New entrepreneurs like Keith are continuing to push the boundaries of dispensary design, particularly when it comes to appealing to a broader range of Black consumers, while simultaneously pushing back against the “whitewashing” of the legal cannabis market.

“Corporations conveniently forget that a lot of cannabis culture is centered around Black culture,” said Ebony McGee Andersen, the chief operating officer of Josephine & Billie’s, another South Los Angeles dispensary operated by and for Black women. “You can’t fake that. You can’t appropriate that.”

Source: | photo: Google page


Celebrate the Black Women That Are Lighting Up (pun intended) The Cannabis Industry Despite The Hurdles


Jasmine Browley · Updated April 20, 2022

As states continue to legalize cannabis, the weed industry has experienced a huge boom among entrepreneurs looking to get into the lucrative space. As Essence previously reported, CBD and THC are being widely productized, with billions of investment dollars funneling into marijuana-based startups across the country. In 2020 alone, the U.S. cannabis industry generated about $61B. 


Sadly, despite growing support, the industry has largely been gatekept from BIPOC entrepreneurs, particularly Black women. Refinery29 pointed out that Black-owned cannabis businesses are rare,  because it is still incredibly difficult and expensive to enter, particularly if you’re actually growing cannabis. Vice media pointed out that only 40% of Black women think that, by 2030, anyone — regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity or social standing — will be able to safely produce and sell cannabis products. 

That’s why we’d be remiss if on 4/20/22 we didn’t celebrate the Black women that are lighting up (pun intended) the cannabis industry despite the hurdles.

Dispensary 33

The recreational and medicinal dispensary is owned (51%) by sisters Loretta and Priscilla Foster, Black women who have been awarded a social equity cannabis dispensary license by the state of Illinois, as reported by Block Club Chicago. This is important because Black owned dispensaries are largely unheard of, and weed was just recently legalized in Illinois. Their website states that: “Cannabis is legalized in Illinois–Over 1,300 customers shopped while 25 employees inside, 14 employees outside, and neighboring businesses worked nonstop to create a memorable day for the city of Chicago. The mayor’s office held a press conference directly outside our doors with State Senators and Representatives who wrote the law seeing it come to fruition.”Pasted Graphic.tiff


Josephine & Billie’s


Mary and Main

At 29, Maryland native Hope Wiseman is the youngest Black woman to own a marijuana dispensary in the U.S, CBS reported in 2021. She said she was determined to break barriers in the cannabis industry, as well as within her community, and provide an opportunity to show others how to create generational wealth. Located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, it offers medical cannabis and educational resources on the benefits of its usage


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