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Home Current Events Black Woman Accomplishes Another First In The Cannabis Industry

Black Woman Accomplishes Another First In The Cannabis Industry

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Photo of Vetra Stephens. Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Wanda James became Black history in 2010. After Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, Wanda and husband Scott founded the nation’s first Black owned dispensary, Simply Pure. Today the couple owns two dispensaries, two cultivation facilities and are manufacturers. Recently the Detroit area welcomed its first dispensary, after the state legalized cannabis in 2019. That dispensary is First Quality Medz in River Rouge and the owner is Vetra Stephens, a Black woman.

Stephens is in the right place, at the right time. As the only dispensary in the Detroit area, she currently has little competition. This is partially due to the fact that the Detroit City Council passed a measure to temporarily block new dispensaries, until more Blacks and minorities are allowed to have a presence in what is sure to be a tremendous growth industry. Detroit is a majority-Black city and thus the Council’s concern is not unfounded. Frankly, it’s difficult to discuss cannabis without engaging in a discussion about race.

Wanda James

Wanda James was very cognizant of the role race has played historically, with respect to cannabis. As she told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In 1999, I learned my younger brother had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, in Texas, for four ounces of pot. For four years, he picked cotton, before being paroled. And what I learned was that 800,000 people a year are arrested for simple possession — 85 percent of them Black and brown boys between the ages of 17 and 24.” James was determined to use her platform as an owner in the industry to shed light on the other side of the cannabis experience, for Black people.

Michelle Alexander wrote the groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow. Several years ago she summed the matter by saying, “Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big—big money, big businesses selling weed—after 40 years of impoverished Black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed.” She went on to say, “Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?” As Black people pursue opportunities in the cannabis industry, they should do so with a full understanding of the history and their responsibility to the collective.

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D'Juan Hopewell
I care about Black Power. Period. Currently working on creating jobs and funding new startups on the South Side of Chicago and writing here and there at HopewellThought.com. Follow me @HopewellThought.
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