When I got word that (A) there’s a new Black-owned cannabis business in town and (B) it’s the “first historical hip-hop dispensary” in the country, my first thoughts were, “How in the hell has no one else done this yet?” and, “Aw, how cute and special and dope that this is happening in Portland.”
As tenacious and blossoming as the city’s scene has become, Portland isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of hip-hop culture. But we are known for our superior 420 culture—Oregon’s got more, better, and cheaper weed than any other place in the country, and that’s attracting cannabis-loving tourists and transplants. Technically, Green Hop’s been doing business on Northeast 16th and Killingsworth since a soft opening in late 2017. Founder Karanja Crews (who goes by KC) says they’re already getting foot traffic due to their busy location near Tea Bar, Hat Yai, and Podnah’s Pit. The business is the first entirely Black-owned cannabis dispensary in Portland, and they’ll expand their hours to seven-days-a-week after the grand opening on June 16.
For the event, KC reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, and US Congressman Earl Blumenauer to be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony—a move that’s consistent with the government-sanctioned Portland Hip-Hop Day.
“I admire Green Hop’s commitment to supporting African American youth in developing the skills and expertise needed to thrive in the cannabis industry, and share their goal of increasing the participation and success of people of color in an otherwise white-dominated field,” Commissioner Fritz said in a press release.
“The link between hip-hop culture and the normalization of cannabis is a natural partnership,” said Mayor Wheeler. “Green Hop dispensary’s mission to promote community health and wellness, and increase economic opportunities for people of color is something the City of Portland wholeheartedly supports.”
While city officials are making an effort to foster a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with the hip-hop community, KC adds that there’s still work to be done before equity is achieved.
As co-owner and manager Nicole Kennedy reminds me, hip-hop artists whose lyrics included 420 references experienced actual repercussions back in the day—they sacrificed opportunities and endorsement deals, and received backlash for openly smoking (and rapping about smoking) the devil’s weed. Thanks to the ridiculously racist War on Drugs, people of color continue to be incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes at a disproportionate rate compared to whites. So it should come as no surprise that in cities like Denver, Seattle, and Portland, cannabis has become a white-dominated industry.
Situated in a green-and-yellow house with an interior decked out with vibrant graffiti and iconic albums, the Green Hop collective hopes to be a constant reminder of the artists who paved the way for legalization by normalizing the consumption of dope through hip-hop music and culture. KC specifically cites rappers like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Nas, and Tupac, who unapologetically smoked cannabis in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We’re just trying to pay homage,” KC says, adding that in the future, he’d like to have greats like Nas, Redman, and Method Man perform at one of their block party concerts.
Green Hop recently partnered with Portland Opportunities Industrial Center and won a grant to assist in their Green Hop Academy Program, which provides apprenticeships for African Americans aged 21 to 24 who are interested in working in the cannabis industry. The team says they’re excited to create opportunities for more people of color, including jobs, internships, apprenticeships, and more.
Green Hop will use hip-hop as an icebreaker in educating their clients about where their flower comes from, looking at growers’ practices and terpene levels. KC tells me another distant dream is turning part of the shop into a record store, which would make it the only Black-owned record store currently in Portland. In addition to throwing regular block parties, KC says he plans to use their space to film rap cyphers and host art exhibits and educational seminars.
Green Hop is already creating strong ties with the local hip-hop community. On August 18, the dispensary will host the Green Hop Fest Block Party, and KC’s already gotten hip-hop duo Dead Prez to commit. Recently Green Hop signed on to be a sponsor for the Thesis monthly hip-hop showcase at Kelly’s Olympian—they’ll hook showgoers up with deals and goodies this Thursday.