Portland Dispensary Aims to Boost Black Entrepreneurship, Honor Hip-Hop

Ribbon Cutting – L to R: Rep. Earl Blumenauer; Co-owner Nicole Kennedy; Co-owner Karanja Crews (with scissors); Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz; Oregon State Senator, Lew Frederick.

In a state with more pot shops than McDonalds and Starbucks combined, Oregon stands out among the rest. Its largest city can also lay claim to the nation’s first hip-hop and African-American-owned and -operated dispensary.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, state legislators, and local officials attended the June 16, 2018, grand opening of Green Hop dispensary. Democratic US Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who represents the Portland area, called the dispensary a historic step toward alleviating the disproportionate damage done to the African American community as a result of the War on Drugs.

“Less than one percent of this industry, which is going to be bigger than the NFL in five years, is African-American,” said Rep. Blumenauer at the opening ceremony. “Nothing makes me feel better than watching you open this establishment.”

Following the ribbon cutting, the doors to the bright green, two-story house with canary yellow trim opened to the public.

“We need to right the wrongs and damage done to communities of color through discriminatory policing and to ensure equal access to the growing cannabis economy,” Blumenauer told Marijuana.com.

A resolution filed in the House on June 14, 2018 by Democratic Rep.  Barbara Lee of California aims to right some of those wrongs. The RESPECT Resolution (Realizing Equitable and Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades) seeks to elevate the importance of equity of treatment within the legal cannabis marketplace.

“Our community is underrepresented in the cannabis industry and over-represented in the prisons,” Nicole Kennedy, Green Hop co-founder, said during the ceremony.

Nicole Kennedy co-owner of Green Hop

Kennedy said the grand opening of their shop was scheduled for June 16 because it would have been rapper Tupac Shakur’s 47th birthday. Green Hop had a soft opening in December.

“Hip-hop artists who rapped about weed bore the brunt of the backlash just like our community has been plagued by unfair pot arrests and incarcerations. Hip-hop was controversial back in the day, like weed still is,” said Kennedy, who works both as a nurse and a schoolteacher.

Kennedy’s Green Hop co-owner, Karanja Crews, said the hip-hop idea had less to do with marketing and more to do with paying homage to the artists who inspired them as well as to attract young people into in a positive industry.

“This is more than a shop, this is an expression of equity. We need to deal with how we’ve been pushed out,” said Crews, who waved his arm toward the homes that lined the neat urban street where he grew up in North Portland. “Not just pushed out of the cannabis industry but from this neighborhood by gentrification. We’re re-gentrifying it.”

Co-owners Nicole Kennedy and Karanja Crews

Crews taught fifth grade for more than a decade and is still active in the organization he founded, Teaching with Purpose, which promotes culturally responsive practices in the classroom.

“We came of age during an extremely political time in hip-hop,” Crews said. “And we’re bringing our culture back to this neighborhood.”

Mayor Wheeler said Portland fully supports Green Hop’s mission to promote community health and wellness. He said hip-hop and cannabis have a natural connection.

“This is a perfect integration of the best values of hip-hop with the best entrepreneurial spirit,” Wheeler said.

Kennedy and Crews, both in their mid-thirties, also created the Green Hop Academy internship program in collaboration with the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, a nonprofit youth mentorship organization. The academy teaches young adults employable skills in the cannabis industry through classes that include certification by a local educational center known as the Sativa Science Club.

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