Kika Keith and Kika Howze, founders of Gorilla Rx
Meet Kika Keith and Kika Howze, owners of LA’s first Black women-owned dispensary
Gorilla Rx is a lifestyle brand born out of a serendipitous and arduous journey. Its founders are a mother-and-daughter team: Kika Keith (aka Big Kika) and Kika Howze (aka Little Kika), the first Black women to own and operate a cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles.
Here, we talk to the pair about the endless hard work that’s gone into making their business a success within the Los Angeles social equity space — despite the roadblocks that they and other entrepreneurs have encountered while operating alongside the city’s once-vaunted Social Equity Program.
InsideHook: The Social Equity Program, run by the City of Los Angeles, says its goal is to “promote equitable ownership and employment opportunities in the cannabis industry in order to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities, and to address the disproportionate impacts of the War on Drugs in those communities.” Some participants, though, have been disappointed. Can you tell us what your experience with the program has been like?
Kika Keith: We thought, early on, that the program was designed to fail before it even started. There was no education or training. There was no funding for technical assistance, for lawyers, for accountants — for all the things that you need in the early stages to run a million multimillion-dollar business right.
I liken it to the Trojan horse concept: These big, multi-state operators are mostly operated by white men. They needed “social equity” in order to get recreational marijuana legalized. As soon as [recreational marijuana] opens up, instead of doing [true] social equity, they grandfathered in existing medical marijuana dispensaries. Only six were African American at the beginning.
Published: January 29, 2022
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News