by Luna Reyna
Last month cannabis media was enthusiastically reporting about the first Black-owned cannabis dispensary in Seattle, owned by one of Seattle’s heroes: Shawn Kemp, also known as the Reign Man, a six-time NBA All-Star and former Seattle SuperSonics Power Forward. The rub is that at the time of this announcement Kemp had no stake in the company that bears his name. Matt Schoenlein and Ramsey Hamide — two co-founders of Main Street Marijuana — owned the dispensary. A dispensary named Shawn Kemp Cannabis.
Unfortunately for Schoenlein and Hamide, activists and hopeful Black cannabis entrepreneurs who have been shut out of the business quickly called their bluff, revealing that Kemp’s application to join the existing license had not yet been approved and he would ultimately only have a 5% stake in the company. This hardly qualifies as “Black-owned.” “It was a blatant attempt to manipulate the public,” says Aaron Barfield, president of Black Excellence in Cannabis (BEC). A BEC press release called the claim that the dispensary was Black-owned “ethically reprehensible,” considering there are 50 cannabis dispensaries in Seattle and not one of them is Black-owned. But that is not for lack of trying.