Hope Wiseman: The Young'n Beating The Odds
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It isn’t an uncommon belief that most young millennials stepping into the cannabis industry have had at least one personal experience with marijuana. Many ganjaprenuers have had “the talk” with their parents and were told to say no to drugs. Others have had their run in with the law one way or another. With minority marijuana related arrests being exceedingly higher than any other race in this country, there is a huge percentage of blacks and latinos that are not even allowed to consider working with weed. Hope Wiseman, on the other hand, opposes the stereotype of ganjaprenuers indefinitely by being the first African American woman to own a dispensary in the state of Maryland without a history of using cannabis recreationally herself. In her early 20’s, the young and educated Hope Wiseman sought no other than her mother to embark on her journey into the cannabis industry, and she’s only getting her feet wet!
Wiseman is a native of PG County (Prince George’s County), Maryland. She was introduced to cannabis in her home state by seeing others use it recreationally but was more interested in the business aspect of it. It wasn’t until she attended Spelman College in Atlanta that her cannabis interest became heightened. “I started to see articles in Time and in Forbes about cannabis and the industry and how much it would be worth in 5-7 years,” she tells us. The thought of Hope starting a business in the cannabis industry sparked from the economic point of view, as opposed to many other African Americans in the industry who have some sort of personal connection with the plant. It was then that she began falling in love with every aspect of marijuana. “I fell in love with the science of it, the story of cannabis and how it became scheduled. I became passionate about trying to do my part in alleviating that stress on African Americans, mainly.”
Don’t be quick to think that Hope Wiseman is just starting another big business because of the possibility of a huge return on investment. In fact, she is proud to be the first African American dispensary owner and believes that others like her deserve the same opportunity. She admits, “My primary reason for getting into the cannabis industry is because I believe that African Americans deserve a seat at the table.” Hope explains that she is very aware of the hardships that African Americans face when it comes to working in the cannabis industry and recognized a way to open the door of opportunity. “In order to do so,” she says, “somebody will have to take a chance. But, it has to be the right person with opportunities, resources and knowledge to do so and I realized I had all of that at my disposal.”
You cannot categorize Hope as a “pot head” because she is far from the type. She confesses to not having had much recreational experience with cannabis until after she began engulfing herself in her research. “For me, I really believe that most recreational users, if not all, are using because they are treating something that their body is lacking,” she says. “I really believe in the science and with more research and development, we will be able to use it better.”
As Hope’s knowledge of the plant grew, so did her excitement about being involved in the industry. As light bulbs continued to go off in her head, she decided to ask for her mother’s advice about getting into cannabis. “My mother is a co-founder of my business. She is an entrepreneur, she’s a dentist, a health practitioner and she’s also a mortgage broker. Being an entrepreneur is in my blood,” Hope laughs. She approached her mother, who has never used cannabis recreationally either, with a plan that promoted health and wellness for their community.
“My mom is my biggest supporter with everything I do,” Hope mentioned. With her mom on board, they began securing funding and reached out to their third partner, Dr. Larry Bryant, who assisted with the application process. “Once we were awarded the State Board approval, we raised a little bit more money from private investors but pretty much, we self financed the whole project,” Hope proudly admitted. “This [her dispensary] is a true family owned store.”
Networking is ultimately what has grown Hope’s canna-empire. From connecting with Dr. Bryant to receiving funding from a bank, which is not easy nor cheap in the cannabis industry, Hope has built sustainable relationships with like-minded ganjaprenuers and her community to flourish within the industry. “Had it not been for some of the networking events that I went to very early on, maybe three years ago, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today,” Hope professed. “That’s where I met a lot of the same people that have helped me today.”
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Hope. While she has the education, business plan and funding and a great support system behind her, she had two things working against her: she’s black, and she’s a woman. “Maryland did not award any minority ownership to growers or processors. And when I define ‘minority’ I’m not including women in the demographic,” she says. Hope explained the “point system” that the state of Maryland goes by when considering who to grant licensing to and the difficulty African Americans face in order to “beat the system” per se. Hope was lucky enough to be one of 2000 applicants granted stage one licensing approval in December 2016. And in true Hope Wiseman nature, she is working closely with a group of African Americans to introduce a bill that will guarantee that at least five licenses be awarded to minorities when licensing becomes available again. The bill will remove at least one roadblock that minorities are facing.
Licensing was a three year process for Wiseman. “It definitely wasn’t quick,” she reassured us. “Maryland is known for having the slowest roll out process in the history of these state programs.” Although the process may have seemed like it was dragging, Hope is confident that her state is taking all of the precautions necessary to have a safe and successful marijuana program. And although the process dragged, Hope almost instantaneously noticed a change in canna-business professionals once her license was granted.
It is pretty much assumed that if you have endured the licensing process and were awarded, that you must know what you’re doing. “Once you become licensed within this industry,” she tells us, “it gives you so much credibility because these licenses are very difficult to get.” Hope is no stranger to walking into rooms, receiving looks and concerned comments about whether or not she belongs there. However, she knows how to carry a conversation, command attention and make others understand why she’s there. “I always say I will never put myself in a situation that I’m not supposed to be in. So if you don’t know, you’ll know.”
Hope decided to bring her business back home, where it would benefit the health and wellness of the community where she was born and raised. Mary and Main will soon call PG County home and will service medical patients of Maryland. “Originially, we applied under the name Compassionate Herbal Alternative,” she said. “We just felt like that sounded a bit medical for the feel that we wanted to give.” Hope’s mission is to make Maryland patients comfortable in an open and airy space that provides education about cannabis as well as products. Mary and Main’s vibe is somewhere in between a head shop and a doctor’s office. Hope emphasizes on the time and care that she and her partners took putting into building and designing the dispensary. “When you come to our store, you’re going to notice things that we do to make your experience a lot easier, quicker, faster. But, if you have a lot of questions, you can take all of the time you want.”
Unlike any other dispensary, Mary and Main focuses on customized every patient’s experience. Not only will there be a store on the premises, Mary and Main will host educational seminars, cooking with cannabis classes, and even space to rent to others to host events. The dispensary will offer a variety of cannabis flowers, concentrates, vape pen cartridges, topicals - any type of product you can imagine, except edibles which are banned in the state. The employees on premises will be knowledgeable and eager to educate. And the chances of chatting with Hope are very high (no pun intended) as she will be working in the store as well.
While Maryland herbalists are becoming more excited about Mary and Main, others in the community have mixed feelings. Hope has heard people say things such as, “‘I personally don’t mind but, the general consensus is we don’t want you here.’” Terminology such as this may deter others, however, Hope recognizes the lack of education and knows that is the way to get others on the bandwagon. “It starts with at the leadership level. It’s our responsibility to educate our community leaders because they don’t understand and they’re the ones that are voting on the bill!” With that being said, Hope’s intentions are to spend time speaking to people going to hearings and testifying so that the older generations can begin to change their minds. It is also encouraging for Hope to see potential in educating the older generation.
Rather than just making room for herself, Hope aspires to help other African Americans get themselves in the door and at the table with her. Understandably, Hope is keeping a close eye on her canna-business endeavors and perfecting her craft but, she does have plans of being a mentor to others looking to pursue a career in cannabis.
As a black woman in an already booming and ever evolving industry, Hope Wiseman has become a statistic by being the first and youngest African American dispensary owner in the country at the age of 25. She contradicts the common stereotype of a cannabis user and business owner by proving she is a millennial ganjaprenuer with full knowledge of the plant, its history, effects and financial potential. Hope Wiseman is the quintessence of canna-business done right, never forgetting the importance of education and willing to step up to advocate for it. A proud member of the cannabis community, Hope Wiseman is a true gem that the cannabis industry is so lucky to have.
Live in Maryland? Become a patient on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission website.
See more of Hope Wiseman on WAGS Atlanta, the new show on E! Premieres tonight (Jan.3) at 10 PM EST.
Hope Wiseman: The Young’n Beating The Odds