These Black Mom Cannabis Entrepreneurs Are Helping Break Stigma
I’m not gonna lie to you Marge, cannabis use is something that I used to not understand and high-key judged. Years of Nancy Reagan’s “D.A.R.E to say no to drugs” did a number on me — and to this day, I’m still as square as they come. However, over the past few years, I’ve unclenched a little — especially when it comes to motherhood and cannabis use.
When it comes to mothering, there is definitely a spectrum of acceptable topics and confessions — and cannabis use is still one that has a huge stigma attached to it. And maybe it’s because as I’ve become more honest about parenting and tackled some of the other taboos like mental health struggles, I’ve realized that cannabis — like mental health — is not what I had thought it was. In fact, there’s an entire swath of amazing moms who use cannabis — and it makes them better parents and people.
To celebrate and de-stigmatize cannabis use — especially among mothers and people of color — let’s highlight a couple of the pioneers in cannabis entrepreneurship who are leading the way for women. Here are two awesome Black women cannabis entrepreneurs and mothers who can empower and inspire us — as well as our kids.
Kika Keith is a cannabis activist, mom, entrepreneur, and the owner of Gorilla Rx Wellness — one of the only Black woman owned dispensaries of the approximate 200 dispensaries in Los Angeles. It is, in fact, thanks to Keith’s advocacy work along with others in the cannabis equity movement, that 100 of the Los Angeles’s cannabis licenses will be social equity license — a Los Angeles program that aims “to promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities, and to address the disproportionate impacts of the War on Drugs in those communities.”
Because Keith’s father was Rastafarian, Keith grew up with cannabis in the background. She was taught that everything we needed came from the earth — and that was the beautiful part about the cannabis plant. In 2017, Keith started checking out the taboo side of cannabis with an infused green drink — after which, she embedded herself in the community. She learned about regulations, furthered her education at Oaksterdam University, and became an active stakeholder in the cannabis community.
To Keith, her quest has always been about the pathway to self-sufficiency — and she sees cannabis as a part of that. As a single mother of three girls, her goal was to not only feed her children and create a legacy, but to create generational wealth and affect the children in the communities around her.
“The biggest push is community education,” Keith tells Scary Mommy. “We go back to the healing nature from our grandparents — they used it, you know — and to our ancestors. We tap into that first.” She adds that once the community is educated, even if they’re not users, it begins to remove the stigmas.
“It allows them to have their sons and daughters work in our businesses and have living wage jobs,” she explains. “It allows us to fight for laws that affect the community via investment — because these tax dollars — the city of LA has over $500 million in tax dollars — and not a dime has come back to the communities that were affected by the war on drugs.”
Keith taps into parents who shop in these stores and become these businesses’ biggest advocates. “It’s a political process,” she says, reminding her community to engage in the process so this just isn’t another industry where the rich get richer. Keith tirelessly went to city council meetings and forced the city to stay accountable. “I want to spread the word against the white man that’s coming in here — who has all the licenses and taken all of our opportunities. We’ve felt the need to unionize and to work collectively, as community members and social equity owners and workers.”
Whitney Beatty — who did not use cannabis while growing up — is a former reality television development executive who worked her way to the top at the William Morris Agency and Warner Brothers Telepictures. Now as founder and CEO of her newly opened Los Angeles-based dispensary, Josephine & Billie’s, Beatty aims to bring cannabis education to communities of color.
Named after Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday — two women who were persecuted for their cannabis use and yet fought against injustice and held doors open for others — the speak-easy inspired dispensary focuses on education about cannabis, its history in communities of color, and supporting women of color who want to come into this space.
Beatty is adamant about focusing on women of color — from the C-suite on down. Not only does she serve women of color, she wants to service the community. “We hire women of color, we employ women of color, we’ve worked with women of color from our construction to finance to design to our team,” she explains. “We believe in an inclusive supply chain — so from the people that you’ll find on our walls to all across the board.”
Beatty’s cannabis journey started after an anxiety attack when, after she tried and hated how different anxiety medications made her feel, her doctor suggested cannabis. Although Beatty was initially very resistant, it made her do her research, asking, “How can cannabis help me? What is cannabis? What are cannabinoids? What is my endocannabinoid system? How can this help me?”
After more research, Beatty started asking different questions that changed everything for her. Why is there a war on drugs? How did that come to be? Why did she have all these negative feelings and connotations? What did this do to her community?
“I saw the opportunities within [the cannabis] space. I saw how my community was pushed out of that space. I saw how this industry was built up around an industry that tore down my community,” Beatty says. “You’re going to build a $70 billion industry on a plant that you used to destroy my community? And so I started looking into the cannabis industry.”
Beatty quit her job, sold her house, and started a company called Apothecary that sold cannabis humidors as a single mom of a 2-year-old. Then in 2019, she applied for a social equity license and finally, as of Fall 2021, Josephine & Billie’s is now open, reclaiming an industry — one woman of color at a time.
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