Photo by Meg Nanna

When Green Hop opened its doors last year and became the first hip-hop-themed pot shop in the nation, it was cause for celebration. But its opening also exposed an embarrassing truth: There’s only one Black-owned dispensary in Portland. Green Hop co-owner Nicole Kennedy entered the cannabis industry in 2016 with the idea of opening a hip-hop-themed dispensary. “Then it turned into this grandiose idea of revolutionizing the cannabis industry,” she explains.

“The more events we went to, the more involved we got in the industry... well, it wasn’t shocking, but it was brought to the forefront of my mind that this industry is completely whitewashed,” Kennedy continues, “even though criminalization is completely brownwashed, if that’s a thing.”

Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for using cannabis, even though whites (especially in Oregon) use the substance at similar rates.

“[There are] a ton of Black and brown people in prison for you know, a little dime bag of weed, and here we are talking about opening up a dispensary and selling it legally,” Kennedy says. “So that’s when we decided that Green Hop was gonna be more than just a dispensary—we were gonna do more than just sell weed and make people feel good and help people use cannabis for health, but also educate people about what’s going on and show other people how to get into the industry.”

During Green Hop’s first year in business, Kennedy and co-owner Karanja Crews were awarded a $96,000 grant from the city for an apprenticeship program called the Green Hop Academy, with the goal of opening doors for African Americans looking to break into Oregon’s cannabis industry.

“As I started this journey, that was probably the number one question: ‘How do I get in?’ Or, ‘I’ve got my budtending license, but I can’t get a job,’” Kennedy explains. “And so that’s how the Academy was birthed.”

When asked how her role has changed since Green Hop’s opening, Kennedy says, “When we first started, it was just KC and I, and we were just kind of learning from each other and bouncing [ideas] off each other. Now I see my role more as a mentor and leader in the industry and in the shop, because people come to me with questions, and I’m constantly training and teaching.” In addition to her duties as an owner, teacher, and mentor, Kennedy says she still enjoys budtending when she’s needed on a busy day.

As for Green Hop’s future, Kennedy says her team is “just waiting for it to become federally legal. That’s what we’re definitely super excited for.”

“I think it’ll change things in a really good way, because in every state that has legalized cannabis, the crime rate has gone down. So, it’ll be good for the nation,” she explains. “Also, if somebody wants to sample weed from Oregon—’cause everybody knows how good Oregon weed is—I think it’ll definitely open up the market more, because Oregon already has a history of having some dank-ass weed.”

Another thing Green Hop is looking forward to is their second annual Green Hop Fest, a block party that’ll go down in late summer. Considering that Dead Prez was last year’s headliner, alongside local acts like Blossom and Mic Capes, I’m hella looking forward to it, as well.