A new Portland pot shop is paying homage to hip-hop culture and resurrecting an integral part of the city’s heritage in the process. Green Hop Dispensary officially held its grand opening on Saturday, in honor of 2Pac’s birthday. (Shakur would have turned 47 that day.)
But the North Portland shop isn’t just about selling cannabis. It’s also about providing opportunities for the youth of color and fighting for a more equitable future in the cannabis industry.
Green Hop: The Portland Dispensary That’s About More Than Selling Weed
Green Hop, the first hop-hop dispensary, celebrated it’s grand opening this week at Northeast 16th Avenue and Killingsworth. Once a predominately Black community, the North Portland neighborhood is like many places throughout the city undergoing rapid gentrification.
Studies document how gentrification often displaces longtime residents of a community, typically poorer folks and people of color. Gentrification irrevocably alters the landscape of a neighborhood, its culture and its history.
There aren’t many signs of the thriving black businesses that once existed around the Woodlawn neighborhood. Discrimination and redlining drove them out. Indeed, Karanja Crews and Nicole Kennedy’s dispensary happens to reside on one of the last black-owned properties there.
“I’m returning to a neighborhood that’s been gentrified,” Crews told Willamette Week. “But now I’m able to open my own business and create new opportunities for people of color.”
Green Hop Dispensary Sees The Link Between Hip-Hop and Cannabis
And that business, Green Hop, is a homage to Black American culture, especially hip-hop. In addition to strain names that pay tribute to the genre’s legends, including “Illmatic” and “Grandmaster Flowers,” customers can pick up albums by Tribe, Dr. Dre and Nas on vinyl.
Kennedy points out that both hip-hop and cannabis have a controversial history. “There’s a lot of stigma around it,” said Kennedy “And its content is more policed than other genres—just like cannabis.”
But hip-hop music also inspired the two co-owners to challenge the political status quo—to fight the power, in the immortal words of Public Enemy. For co-owners Crews and Kennedy, hip-hop represents the impetus for their politics, community activism and business mission.
In fact, the pair met at a local teaching conference, Teaching With A Purpose. Bringing together their experiences in nursing and a shared interest in medical cannabis, the two decided to open a dispensary with the aim of reintegrating the black community into a segregated neighborhood.
To do so, Crews and Kennedy didn’t just open a dispensary, they started an academy for young people. The Green Hop Academy is an internship program providing vocational training in the cannabis industry for young people.
Classes even include certification from the Sativa Science Club. Crew has had former nursing students already enroll and graduate from the Green Hop Academy. Green Hop’s initiative has also won funding from a Portland city grant.
First Hip-Hop Dispensary Champions Cannabis Industry Diversity and Equity
Major political candidates are making criminal justice reform centerpieces of their platforms. Ending harsh sentencing for non-violent drug offenders and offering amnesty for those languishing behind bars for petty pot convictions are becoming increasingly popular positions among progressives.
But fighting mass incarceration and the hyper-incarceration of people of color is just one part of the equation.
Advocates say cannabis justice must also involve making sure Black entrepreneurs and innovators aren’t locked out of the billion-dollar cannabis industry. “Less than 1 percent of the legal cannabis industry is African American,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.). And that’s why Green Hop “is more than a store,” Karanja Crews told the Portland Tribune. “it’s a representation of equity.”