Cannabis Legends to Remember During Black History Month
Each February is recognized as Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month.
This annual occasion is an important time for us to acknowledge and recognize the achievements of the many African Americans who helped shape the United States as we know it today. Its roots are traced back to 1915, fifty years after slavery was ended in the United States thanks to the Thirteenth Amendment.
Unfortunately, the War on Drugs has made it difficult for African Americans to succeed in the cannabis industry. It’s also harder on Black Americans, who are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related charges compared to white people. For them, getting a slice of the cannabis pie is much more challenging.
Because of that, and because it’s Black History Month, here are some of the most notable African American pioneers in cannabis that deserve recognition for their achievements in the challenging industry. Let’s allow them to inspire the next generation of African-American cannabis trailblazers:
Hope Wiseman was the youngest African American dispensary owner in the United States. At the age of 25, she was successfully able to establish Mary and Main in Maryland. Wiseman graduated from Spelman College, and has a background in investment banking.
Mary and Main focuses on education, philanthropy, and social activism though their products include a variety of cannabis products, as well as offering therapy treatments. Her co-founders include Dr. Octavia Wiseman, a dental care specialist, and Dr. Larry Bryant, who specializes in oral surgery for families.
The Canna MDs
Doctors Rachel and Jessica Knox, famously known as the Canna MD’s, established the American Cannabinoid Clinics in 2014. They did so together with their parents, both of whom are also doctors, with the intention of offering patients with a customized healing methodology.
Their passion for helping people through the healing powers of cannabis began when their mother discovered the benefits of marijuana for her own patients. The Knox family now has several clinics around Oregon. The Canna MDs website was established to provide education for the general public as well as healthcare providers and patients when it comes to using cannabis as medicine.
Wanda James Smith & Scott Durrah
Wanda Smith and her husband, Scott Durrah, are America’s first black couple to own a licensed cannabis dispensary, and they were the first black-owned dispensary in Colorado. Back in 2009, they opened the Simply Pure Dispensary located in Denver.
Wanda was also instrumental for the cannabis industry because she is a former lieutenant in the US Navy, and served as the campaign manager for not one, but two successful congressional runs in the state. Additionally, she worked on the National Finance Committee under President Barack Obama. She was tasked to oversee Amendment 64, which eventually ended the prohibition of cannabis in Colorado and paved the way to the legalization of recreational cannabis by 2012.
Brittany Moore and Alphonso T. Blunt Jr.
Brittany Moore and Alphonso T. Blunt Jr. founded Blunts + Moore, the first equity cannabis dispensary. Covering 4,000 square feet of space, the dispensary sells a range of world-class cannabis products.
They were also some of the first beneficiaries of the equity permit program that Oakland launched back in 2017. The program provided licenses for residents of Oakland who had a cannabis conviction, or who were residents of areas that had a “disproportionately higher number of cannabis-related arrests.”
Al Harrington, a former NBA player, founded a cannabis brand called Viola Brands in 2011. Aside from selling cannabis products, he also developed Viola Cares, a philanthropic project that seeks to help formerly incarcerated individuals in their transition back to society.
Viola Cares operates with community engagement in mind, cooperating with national and local groups that reinvest in the communities they work in. They also work to ensure that people in need get immediate resources for support, while helping shape local cannabis policy in the areas of social justice reform, reentry into society, and expungement.
The name Viola was inspired by Al’s grandmother, who suffered from glaucoma, diabetes, and high blood pressure. They were living in Colorado, and at the time he was able to get some medical marijuana to help her. And when he saw how much she was able to benefit from it, it inspired him to go deeper into the world of cannabis. And after 16 seasons of playing with the NBA, he founded Viola Brands, and the rest is history.
Karim Web, CEO of 4thMVMT, an organization that trains then finances candidates who have been qualified to participate in the social equity program of Los Angeles. The program seeks to help people that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
Today, 4thMVMT supports many cannabis entrepreneurs, including those who are trying to make it in the cannabis industry. Thanks to free management and business training, candidates have a shot at succeeding. They even help with storefront securing, investment, and licensing, all of which are serious hurdles to everyone trying to make it big in cannabis, most especially African Americans.
Andrea Drummer, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, is a pioneer in bringing cannabis to the forefront of the restaurant industry. She is a co-owner and chef at The Original Cannabis Café, the very first restaurant to ever legally sell marijuana for on-site consumption.
The Original Cannabis Café initially opened in 2019 with the name Lowell Café, located in West Hollywood, California. Now, she co-owns Elevation VIP, a Los-Angeles based catering company that specializes in including cannabis-infused foods on the menu.