The State's First 'Economic Empowerment' Cannabis Shop Is Set To Open In Boston
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
RE-POSTED: July 31, 2019 Updated Aug 01, 2019 8:28 AM By Jessicah Pierre, BOSTONMIX
Dorchester native Kobie Evans and his business partner, Kevin Hart, both African American, were recently granted a provisional license to open Boston’s first recreational cannabis shop, in the neighborhood's Grove Hall area.
Pure Oasis, the first marijuana store in Massachusetts to benefit from the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) economic empowerment program, is expected to open by late October.
When Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the state became the first in the nation to include a mandate prioritizing disenfranchised groups as a way to assist people disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
Evans and Hart, just friends at the time, were hanging out one afternoon talking about the barriers people of color and black men face in order to be successful in Massachusetts. This was at a time when the Boston Globe Spotlight Team had published a series on race that highlighted, among other things, data from a 2015 report finding that the median net worth for black American households in the Greater Boston region was $8, compared to $247,500 for whites in the same area.
Kobie Evans, left, and Kevin Hart are partners in Pure Oasis, which is set to be Boston's first recreational pot shop. (Courtesy of Mike Whittaker)
Knowing how issues related to income inequality serve as a function of access to wealth-building business opportunities, the pair decided that they should take advantage of the social justice initiative in the marijuana legislation to access a potential gateway to closing the racial wealth divide they faced in the city as black men.
They began by researching the details of the long and complicated process involved in getting into the newly legalized cannabis industry. Three years later, they are the first applicants to receive provisional approval to open a recreational dispensary in Boston.
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Having grown up in similar situations of poverty and racial and economic inequality, Evans and Hart qualified for the economic empowerment program.
Evans, a real estate agent, and Hart, a health care practice manager, both lived in areas with high rates of arrests related to marijuana. Evans grew up in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner neighborhood when the war on drugs began to wreak havoc on Boston’s communities of color through what most residents saw as racial discrimination by law enforcement.
“Growing up, I can visibly remember walking down the street and being slammed into a storefront by police, being asked for ID just because I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Evans said. “This was normal for men of color in my neighborhood.
“Many of my peers faced the tough risk of selling drugs because of the lack of employment opportunities due to discriminatory practices. Many of the kids I grew up with ended up in jail, and some of them are still there.”
Hart, who now resides in Randolph, grew up in similar conditions in Baltimore and Virginia, where stop and frisk was the norm for black men.
Requirements for the state CCC’s program include having a past drug conviction or being the spouse or child of someone with a drug conviction; or having lived in an “area of disproportionate impact” for at least five years; and having an income that doesn’t exceed 400% of the federal poverty level. Applicants must have resided in the state for at least 12 months.
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