After much ballyhoo and a bit of backlash, Shawn Kemp's Cannabis opens today near where the Sonics legend used to star. Former teammate Gary Payton, a weed entrepreneur (and a strain) himself, will assist in a green ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12:45pm; the dispensary will start welcoming customers at 1pm.
The store has been hailed as Seattle's first Black-owned dispensary and, technically, that is correct. But Kemp is partnering with Matt Schoenlein and Ramsey Hamide, owners of the Main Street Marijuana chain, prompting questions on social media about just how much stake the Reign Man holds in the venture. Omari Salisbury of Converge Media discussed some of the local skepticism during a panel discussion, "The Cannabis Industry and Seattle's Black Community," shortly after the news broke. "A lot of times," Salisbury said of this type of announcement, "what we’ve seen is people are just the front man.”
A spokesperson for Shawn Kemp's Cannabis wouldn't divulge any details about Kemp's ownership stake yesterday, instead forwarding along a statement: "Our PR team released a statement last week with the headline 'Seattle's First Black-Owned Dispensary, Shawn Kemp's Cannabis, to Open This Month' [that] should not have been released.... We regret the unfortunate wording and misstep of that press release, which has caused further misunderstanding in the local community."
The statement goes on to say that the store's owners view it as a potential "social equity incubator, to train people of color and women to [become] cannabis store owners. We envision a diverse industry."
Though we're approaching a decade of legalized recreational cannabis in Washington, the industry has remained overwhelmingly white in a state where Black people were disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession. Kemp hopes that his involvement in the business will inspire others, "especially people of color," to join the industry, he said in a statement.
It's not the six-time All Star's first business in the area. You may remember Oskar's Kitchen, his restaurant and bar in Lower Queen Anne, that opened shortly after the Sonics left town (it closed in 2015).
Kemp's latest endeavor has been hiding in plain sight; passersby spotted a Kemp mural on the exterior of the building at 3035 1st Avenue weeks ago. The 30-foot-by-80-foot work of local muralist Jeff Jacobson, aka Weirdo, features Kemp in multiple states of sky-walking before his singularly powerful dunks. Worth checking out, even if you're not interested in getting high.