At 29, Maryland-born Hope Wiseman is the youngest black woman to own a marijuana dispensary in the United States. She is determined to break down barriers in the cannabis industry as well as in her community and show others how she can create generational wealth. Wiseman founded Mary and Main, a pharmacy in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The pharmacy is not only a place where people can buy medicinal cannabis, but also a place where they can learn more about the plant and learn about efforts to end the “war on drugs” that disproportionately affects minority communities are.
“Mary and Main is truly a product of love and family,” Wiseman told CBS News.
Mary and Main was born by Wiseman, her mother Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman and close family friend Dr. Larry Bryant and is a family business. With 20 years of experience in dentistry, Dr. Wiseman and Dr. Bryant also now started using cannabis to improve the lives of people with debilitating diseases.
Wiseman spent a year at SunTrust as an institutional stock sales analyst before leaving to pursue her entrepreneurship dreams. She used her financial background and passion to help her community open the pharmacy. Through extensive research, Wiseman recognized the economic potential of growing cannabis. She also understood the cultural impact that benefiting from something that has so often resulted in people looking like they are incarcerated.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Maryland in 2014. That same year, Wiseman began setting up his own pharmacy, which included fundraising and obtaining a license to sell medicinal cannabis. Four years later, and a year after the state’s broader medical marijuana apparatus was finally up and running, Mary and Main were up and running.
“It’s difficult to get into the industry no matter who you are. Being a black person and a young woman only adds to the challenges,” said Wiseman. “I’m constantly seen as not that qualified. I think a lot of black people already have that image in business and then you add that you are a woman. A lot of men find it difficult to be guided or watched by a woman Then add that I’m 20 years younger than many of my colleagues – people have a hard time taking me seriously. “
Difficulty in gaining access to capital made the process of creating Mary and Main even more arduous. According to a 2016 report by CrunchBase, women own about a third of all small businesses in the US, but receive only 10% of risk funding.
“Black female founders are very unlikely to get funding … even with bank loans, we’re less likely to get funding,” Wiseman said. “In the cannabis industry, which is illegal nationwide, it’s nearly impossible. But I was able to raise money and overcome the typical barriers that have engulfed my breed.”
According to a 2017 report by the Marijuana Business Daily, only 4% of African Americans were owners and founders of cannabis dispensaries. Women of color made up just over 5% of managerial positions in the industry.
Wiseman is committed to making sure Mary and Main is not just a pharmacy, but a place where minorities can thrive. “We really care about social justice and equity,” Wiseman said. “It’s about creating opportunities for others, building generational wealth for my family, and teaching others how to do the same.”
The pharmacy offers virtual educational courses that include information on criminal justice reform, health equality, social justice, and the history of cannabis. Wiseman also works with state lawmakers to provide redress for people of color.
“The war on drugs has taken out the heads of so many black families, completely disenfranchising the community,” Wiseman said. “We want to give something back to the imprisoned and disenfranchised families.”
According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the United States. Despite roughly equal usage rates, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes than white Americans.
that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, a measure aimed at reducing racial inequalities in drug arrests. The bill would remove marijuana from the federal government controlled substances list and remove federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses. However, the law was not passed by the Senate.
“The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world,” said Democratic representative Hakeem Jeffries at the time. “We have ruined lives, families and communities. It’s a stain on our democracy. Marijuana use is either socially acceptable behavior or criminal behavior. But it may not be socially acceptable behavior in some parts of the city and criminal behavior when divided in other parts of the city Line is race. “
Through Mary and Main, Wiseman hopes to “kill the stigma the country has created regarding cannabis in the black community” and “help African Americans realize the importance of their place in the cannabis industry.”