EXCLUSIVE: Boston's First Black Female Cannabis Shop Owner Has Some Advice For Millennials And The Rest Of Us

Zinger Key Points
  • Weed has long been taboo for people of color, this woman decided to change that and give back to the community.
  • 'When you enter a room with people who don't look like you or relate to you, you've got to hold your head high and speak up.'

As founder and CEO of The Heritage Club, a mission-driven Boston cannabis dispensary, Nike John is the youngest dispensary owner in Boston and the first Black woman to own a dispensary in a major city on the East coast. At 29 years old, John founded the cannabis dispensary and its non-profit subsidiaries as a way to not only provide safe cannabis products and support conscious consumption but to give back to the community and create a medium to help remedy the damage caused by the war on drugs.

John acknowledged that marijuana has long been a taboo topic for people of color and that thousands are still incarcerated for weed-related offenses. When she did not see many others who looked like herself owning and operating businesses in the cannabis space, she felt a calling to change that.

“In March of 2020, right at the start of the pandemic, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) finally began issuing licenses to minority-owned businesses or to those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs,” John told Benzinga.

Though one of the main underpinnings of Massachusetts’ cannabis program was social equity, a closer look at the data shows the industry remains overwhelmingly white and male-run. John said the most recent CCC open data suggests that women-owned businesses make up 10% and minority-owned make up only 12.5% of the landscape.

But she persisted, knowing the process wasn't going to be easy.

“When I started applying for the social equity program three years ago it was an arduous process and little has changed in the years since. We're still up against astronomical costs and legislative hurdles that make it very difficult for black and brown people to actually open up shop.” 

And now? John says it’s been worth it and she’s especially pleased to be an inspiration to others. The Heritage Club opened its doors in September.

It has been incredibly rewarding to bring change to this industry and to hear from other hopefuls on how my story is motivating them to continue on their journey. It is imperative that operators and applicants share feedback with municipalities and the Cannabis Control Commission so they can understand how the law in action helps and hurts equity applicants.”

Tearing down stereotypes about millennials is also on Nike John’s mind.

“As one of the younger operators in the space, I take it seriously that I also have to prove that millennials can be responsible, hardworking, successful, and anything but what we are stereotyped to be. I also think it’s important to be honest about what you do and do not know, ask for help and build on that," John said. 

"The ability to take risks without the full weight of life responsibility was a major factor in getting started. Although, I will admit it is an imposter syndrome moment when you enter rooms of people who do not look like you or relate to you, and you have to convince yourself to hold your head high and speak up.” Amen to that.

Photo: Courtesy of The Heritage Club

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Posted In: CannabisM&AEntrepreneurshipSuccess StoriesExclusivesMarketsInterviewGeneralBlack History MonthBostonmillennialsNike Johnsocial equityThe Heritage Club
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