As more and more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, there exists a bit of conflict within the black community. On one hand, it’s good to know that partaking of the sticky-icky will no longer result in us being locked up and trapped in the probation racket. On the other hand, knowing how many black people have been jailed for selling and consuming weed and how, now that it’s being legalized, the proprietors of weed shops and profiteers of said legalization will more than likely be white, leaves many of us appropriately embittered.
So it will always warm the heart to know that there are at least a small number of cannabis companies that are owned and operated by black people.
Such is the case in Boston, Mass., where recreational marijuana use was legalized in November 2018. According to NBC Boston, the city’s first retail pot shop was approved Thursday, more than a year after the first shops opened elsewhere in the state. And surprisingly—given the city’s history of racism which rivals any state below the Mason Dixon that you can think of—the shop is owned by two black men.
Pure Oasis is the name of Boston’s first weed dispensary owned by Kevin Hart (no, not that one) and Kobie Evens, two black entrepreneurs who say that it’s been a long journey but that they are excited to see it finally bear fruit.
Evans said he’s hoping to open up shop in about a month in the city’s diverse Dorchester neighborhood.
“It’s been a long, challenging journey, but it’s all been worth it,” he said. “We’re excited to be where we are right now, but we’d also like to see more opportunities for people like us so that it’s not such a challenging road for people that come after us.”
According to NBC, the approval comes more than three years after voters passed the first marijuana law in the country specifically aimed at encouraging black and Latino citizens, who have been severely harmed by the war on drugs, to participate in the new industry.
From NBC Boston:
Black and Latino groups have voiced their frustration for months at the slow pace of approvals for minority-owned businesses, both in Massachusetts and nationwide.
The state has granted some form of approval to some 280 marijuana companies licenses to date, but only about 10 of those have gone to companies like Pure Oasis that are certified under the state’s equity programs for minority and disadvantaged marijuana businesses.
Nearly 75% of those who have applied or approved to work in Massachusetts’ legal marijuana industry are white, according to statistics released Thursday by the commission.
Black and Latino people make up less than 12% of the marijuana workforce.
Hart (again, not that one) appears to be optimistic about the future of minority ownership in Boston’s cannabis industry. He says his company, which is also proposing two other shops in the city, will do its part in, at the very least, to recruit black and brown workers.
He says his shop has been holding job fairs in and around Dorchester, a neighborhood where more than 40% of residents are black. The company hopes to employ about 30 workers.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s a great feeling to be first, but we know that also comes with a level of responsibility,” Hart said. “It’s our responsibility to take this win we got today and make sure people of color realize they have the same opportunities.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh faced a lot of criticism for how slow his city was to open pot shops in the first place. Massachusetts currently has more than 30 retail marijuana locations, but are just now opening one in Boston. But he’s apparently making up for the oversight by signing some progressive laws including one he signed last year which was an ordinance overhauling the local process for vetting marijuana businesses.
The new law, among other things, creates the state’s first equity fund aimed at providing technical assistance and other services to minority entrepreneurs seeking to enter the legalized marijuana industry.
So spark one up for progress, good people. There may just be a light at the end of this blunt...err, uh...tunnel.