This past year has been a gratifying one for Kika Keith, co-founder of the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association (SEOWA), and most recently, owner of Gorilla Rx Wellness Co., the first dispensary in Los Angeles owned by a Black woman.
You may recognize Keith from Uprooted, Weedmaps’ 2020 docu-series highlighting California’s long and complex road to cannabis legalization. In episode three of the series, she discussed the lack of equitable cannabis regulations when it came to licensing, particularly for people of color. The constant rule changes, high taxes, and underdeveloped social equity programs have made it extremely difficult for Black and brown Californians to succeed in the cannabis industry, continuing the history of systemic racism tied to prohibition.
Like many other applicants in Los Angeles’ Social Equity Program, Keith struggled to obtain a license for her dispensary for three years. During this waiting period, the retail properties that applicants were forced to secure in order to apply sat unoccupied. At the time of filming Uprooted, Keith’s storefront on Crenshaw Boulevard had been unused for nearly two years as a result of this botched application process. “We had to end up filing a lawsuit through [SEOWA] and ended up settling about nine months later for 100 additional retail licenses,” Keith said.
“And even after that process, it was another 230 days after my application was in … all the while paying an exorbitant amount of rent on an empty property, so it has been a long, hard-fought battle to get doors open and be the first African-American woman to open up a dispensary and operate it in Los Angeles.”
Growing up in the area where she now operates her dispensary, Keith was welcomed with open arms by the community on opening day. “I always call it the house that people built because so many people fought side by side with me going back and forth to city hall, making sure that we were able to keep our doors open while waiting to actually get a license.”
Published: November 18, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News