A Look Inside Oregon's Black-Woman Owned Dispensary
PUBLISHED: Mar 25, 2020 8:23 AM
For Detroit/Kansas City native Leona Thomas, getting into the cannabis industry was a need. While she and her family live in Florida, they fell in love with Oregon after visiting a few times.
“I saw so many white companies getting rich off of an industry that criminalized Black people, Leona told Travel Noire. “I knew we needed more representation, so I decided to open up a business.”
About 3 years ago, ReLeaf Health was born.
Leona and her husband decided to open the dispensary in Northeast Portland.They found that Oregon was more progressive, free, and open to cannabis as a whole versus those in Florida. Also, the cost to get a similar business up and running in Florida was very high.
They chose the name ReLeaf because the ‘leaf’ represents the plant while relief is what cannabis and hemp bring to people.
“It’s not a drug despite what people think. It’s medicine. Even during the COVID-19 outbreak, dispensaries are considered essential businesses because we help people.”
ReLeaf Health offers THC products as well as hemp and CBD. The couple opened it up to all forms because THC cannot be shipped across state lines.
Of course, getting into a male-dominated industry was not easy for the mom of three. She recalls the struggles of securing capital to get the business up and running, especially being a Black business owner. To this day, the business has been self-funded by Leona and her husband with help from family members that believe in their vision.
“Getting capital is still an issue, even now,” she said. “Getting investors to believe in what we do as well as seeing the quality of our products is hard.”
Leona also says that being a mom in the cannabis industry is often frowned upon. As a Black woman with three children, some stereotype her as a “drugged-out mother who is neglecting her children.” But that’s far from the truth. Leona’s first priority always has been and will be her children.
She spends most of her time in Florida while her husband travels back and forth to Oregon when needed. But, Leona is still very much involved in each and every decision of the company.
We asked her to offer advice to anyone else looking to get into the cannabis industry or to start a business in general. She said:
“Don’t get into the cannabis industry simply to get rich quick. It takes time and money to get there. The average cost to open up a dispensary is about $1 million. There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to the industry and marketing and getting your license, but it can be done. Do your research first and lean on people with more experience. No matter what, make sure you are following a passion and not a wave. You have to love what you do and it has to be fulfilling. Just be prepared and of course, pray about it too!.”