Former Sonic Shawn Kemp announces new cannabis dispensary in Seattle

click to enlarge Shawn Kemp goes green. - RONALD WOAN PHOTO
Ronald Woan photo
Shawn Kemp goes green.

Two 50-year-old guys named Shawn sent shockwaves through the cannabis world last week.

First it was Shawn Kemp, a star in the 1990s with the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, who announced last Wednesday that he would be opening his own Seattle dispensary. Two days later, news broke that Beyonce's husband, Shawn Carter — who is also known as Jay-Z, and is rather famous in his own right — was launching a cannabis brand.

As of now, little is known about Jay-Z's newest business venture, Monogram, other than it's generating a ton of publicity. The announcement was picked up not just by the usual cannabis-focused publications but also by giant national outlets from CNN to CBS and Rolling Stone. Monogram is part of California cannabis company Caliva, which Jay-Z joined last year as the company's chief brand strategist.

Closer to home, details about Kemp's project are far more clear.

Shawn Kemp's Cannabis is set to open on Oct. 30, just two blocks south of the Sonics' former home arena in Seattle. According to a release, Kemp will be joined at the opening day festivities by fellow Sonics' legend Gary Payton. But the shop won't just be notable for its ties to Seattle's former team.

"I hope that Shawn Kemp's Cannabis will be an inspiration for people to get involved with the legal cannabis industry, especially people of color," Kemp says in a statement.

The statement goes on to say that Shawn Kemp's Cannabis will be the first Black-owned dispensary in the state. Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board data from January shows that 3 percent of Washington state's dispensary owners self-identify as Black or African American, but regardless, Kemp's claim is still important.

Even with Kemp's entry into the legal market, minorities remain underrepresented in an industry that for decades prior to legalization had a disproportionately large and negative effect on those groups. Kemp's platform will help boost the visibility of the social equity programs Washington is currently implementing in the state's cannabis industry. This past March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that essentially admits a historical, systemic failure by the state in terms of equitable application of drug law. The bill hopes to help in part make up for those past failures by encouraging equitable representation in the legal cannabis market going forward.

Shawn Kemp's Cannabis will open before the bill goes into full effect, which will hopefully make it a harbinger of equity to come. ♦

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