CEO Whitney Beatty and COO Ebony Andersen opened Josephine & Billie’s on Oct. 29, according to Forbes. The old-school, speakeasy-style cannabis store is named and themed after Harlem Renaissance legends Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday, who both became federal government targets for using marijuana during the Prohibition era.
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Beatty told Forbes her goal for Josephine & Billie’s was to create a dispensary that honors Black America’s history with cannabis. She pointed out that the vast majority of licensed cannabis dispensaries in California and across the country are owned by white Americans, even though the war on drugs has led to millions of Black Americans getting locked up for selling marijuana illegally.
California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, according to the New York Times. Eighteen states have passed laws legalizing the use of recreational cannabis, according to US News & World Report.
“For years, the war on drugs has disproportionately disenfranchised people of color,” Beatty told Forbes. “And we are not participating in this space in terms of legalization. Black and brown people own less than one percent of all licensed businesses. Despite the fact this industry was built on the backs of our people.”
The lack of diversity in the growing legalized cannabis business has been in the crosshairs of rapper turned-mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter for years. Hov’s cannabis business, Monogram, and its culture & cultivation ambassador, DeAndre “De” Watson, recently partnered with Josephine & Billie’s ahead of its grand opening.