Local officials and statewide dignitaries hailed the opening of a new marijuana dispensary in North Portland as a welcomed step for African Americans too often locked out of economic opportunities.
"This is more than a store. It's a representation of equity," said Karanja Crews, co-owner of the Green Hop pot shop located at 5515 N.E. 16th Avenue, during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, June 16.
"I grew up in this neighborhood, when no one wanted to live in this neighborhood," Crews continued. "When you see me, don't say welcome to the neighborhood. Say welcome back."
Saturday marked what would have been the 47th birthday of the late rapper Tupac Shakur — an appropriate date for an event billed as opening of the world's first hip hop dispensary. The space is festooned with vinyl records by "2Pac" as well as Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest.
Freshly coated in green paint and yellow trim, the two-story craftsman home in the Vernon neighborhood has been restyled with signs promising "420" deals and an apparent "Garden of Weeden" inside the storefront just a half-block from Northeast Killingsworth Street.
A menu promises $1 pre-rolls and $3 grams of cannabis — rock bottom prices that have become common across Portland as the market wobbles with unprecedented overproduction.
Many politicians praised the entrepreneurial spirit of Green Hop's two young African American co-founders, Crews and nurse and teacher Nicole Kennedy, for fighting against the current of gentrification and racial discrimination.
"Less than one percent of this industry — that's going to be larger than the NFL in five years — is African American," noted Rep. Earl Blumenauer. "Nothing makes me feel better than watching you open this establishment."
"This is the will of the people in this state… and this industry needs to be treated the same as any other," added Mayor Ted Wheeler. "The city of Portland will be here with you 100 percent."
A $96,000 city grant distributed via Portland Opportunities Industrial Center will create the Green Hop Academy Program, an apprenticeship open for African American young people, ages 21 through 24, who are interested in working in the marijuana business.
The ring of the cash register means more revenue generated by the city's three percent recreational marijuana tax that was championed by Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
"I'm sorry for the mistakes of the past," the 10-year veteran of City Council said. "It's important that we invest in the community that has been so disproportionately impacted."
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