top of page

Meet Green Essence: Florida’s First Black-Owned Dispensary Aims For Wellness and Community Building

Amidst all the celebration among cannabis companies and patients with new dispensaries opening, new cannabis legislations being introduced, and events being created for cannabis awareness, there are STILL issues that plague Florida’s lower-income communities regarding cannabis. Unjust marijuana convictions, lack of representation, and legislative strongholds against minority-owned cannabis farms and businesses are continuing the vicious cycle that tears apart disadvantaged citizens and communities. Florida's underprivileged black and brown communities are in need of some kind of access to Florida's medical marijuana program, but since prices for medical cannabis cards are high (~$300-$500 up front) and new legislations have made it harder for black cannabis farmers to obtain a license, Florida's urban communities are experiencing the shit-end of the stick in the medical cannabis experiment. Green Essence looks to enter Florida's medical cannabis market by the end of the year and have HUGE plans regarding representation, cannabis cultivation, and promoting canna-wellness. So, what exactly is Green Essence, what are their goals moving forward, and why should we be paying close attention to them?

I first learned of Green Essence when researching the issue of Florida's black cannabis farmers and their systematic struggles in obtaining a license to sell, and I read that less than 1% of cannabis dispensaries are black-owned; Green Essence. What immediately intrigued me about Green Essence was their team. Jasmine Johnson is at the fore-front of Green Essence, and her team contains Dr. Anthony Hall and Priest Douglas Smith, two accomplished individuals in their respective backgrounds. Dr. Hall has experience in intervention medicine and chronic pain management. He has supported medical cannabis for over a decade and its use in medical treatment. Priest Douglas Smith is an expert in cannabis and has over 30 years of experience in research and the creation of different strains for specific medical conditions. This team highlights what Green Essence as a whole aims to excel in and that is the importance of treating diseases using cannabis and cannabis products. They are not shy with their mission statement, and when I spoke to Jasmine Johnson, she made it clear about Green Essence's intention when entering the cannabis market.

On Wednesday, October 27th, I spoke to Chief Executive Officer Jasmine Johnson about the kind of impact Green Essence looks to have overall in a state with a wide spectrum of patients, her opinion on the market, and how their company compares to the already-established firms like Trulieve, Curaleaf, and Growhealthy. Considering that Green Essence will become Florida's first black-owned dispensary, it was quite interesting to listen to and understand her perspective on a multi-billion dollar industry that is already mishandling minority businesses looking to participate. First, Jasmine went over WHEN Green Essence will be opening up dispensaries, and the company aims to be opening up around 25 dispensaries in Florida within the next year. They are primarily aiming to open shops in urban communities and areas where you might not see a marijuana dispensary. From my experience in North and South Florida, I NEVER saw a cannabis dispensary in the urban and underprivileged communities. Perhaps someone can correct me, but until then, it's an unfortunate experience. Seeing that Green Essence acknowledges that issue and plans to help those negatively affected by unfair cannabis laws FROM THE JUMP is something to appreciate. Large corporations wouldn't dare touch urban communities.

The conversation with Jasmine then focused on the relationship between black communities and state government laws regarding cannabis. Recently, Florida began the application process for black farmers who've been waiting years to obtain a license to grow and sell cannabis in the state. However, this process came with a new set of rules that charge black farmers 3x the original amount in 2016, a fee that Jasmine Johnson considers a "slap in the face to the [black] community." Who can blame her for feeling that way? Florida prevented black farmers from joining the industry when it started, and now that several firms have a stronghold in the market 5 years after medical legalization, they decided to charge black farmers 3x the amount they charged their [white] counterparts. Add that fee with the fact that Florida's black incarceration rates are some of the world's highest--more so than entire countries--and the War on Drugs is a direct culprit of this, it isn't crazy to think that the medical marijuana industry aims to improve the lives and businesses of already-successful firms, while leaving the small-to-medium sized cannabis businesses in the dust. Considering all this, I asked Jasmine to describe Green Essence's entrance into the cannabis market while the racial disparity continues, and her answer was "UNAPOLOGETIC." Green Essence and the team behind them looks to uplift urban communities affected by the War on Drugs, and though this is much easier said than done, Green Essence already have their blueprint and their aiming for racial equity by any means necessary. So, it's a tremendous idea to start by opening dispensaries in the urban communities.

Regarding the fee for black farmers and the amount of time that has already passed during the last 5 years, Jasmine Johnson stated that Green Essence cannot play catch-up with firms like Trulieve. However, she believes Green Essence can do what many dispensaries are choosing NOT to do; focus on the medicinal aspects of cannabis. This topic grew into a personal mission that Green Essence sees as a problem within Florida's cannabis community, which is the incredibly bright spotlight on recreational marijuana and the fight for the "Homegrow" petition by Regulate Florida. Why does this petition cause a stir with Jasmine Johnson and Green Essence? Two reasons. First, she believes this petition takes the importance of canna-wellness away from legislation originally made for medical patients. Now, Jasmine didn't necessarily say she supported or was against the "Homegrow" petition (I should have asked), but she does believe that because people are playing the recreational card so much, less and less attention towards marijuana's medicinal benefits is inevitable. Like I stated earlier, Green Essence's ultimate purpose with cannabis is to be medical, and when the crowd begins to shift more towards recreational legalization, it takes away the importance of Green Essence's plans for their community.

The aim for "Homegrow" is the ability for citizens 21+ to own plants at home, and although the underlying hope for the petition is to affect the unfair marijuana laws and convictions of ALL citizens, that likely won't change due to the SECOND reason why the petition causes a stir with Green Essence; Trulieve's involvement. I asked Jasmine if she thinks Trulieve's support for "Homegrow" is a bit sinister due to the recent backlash and legal issues the cannabis giant is enduring, and she couldn't agree more. "They are under scrutiny," Jasmine stated. "Trulieve admitted to manipulating the system when it began." This is true, and this manipulation can be read about here. Jasmine sees Trulieve's involvement as a way to bolster their appearance while they endure a mountain of scrutiny and bad publicity, and because they've had an impact on legislation regarding cannabis, then their intentions are purely political, not social.

Regardless of what dispensaries are doing, Green Essence has made it clear that they look to separate themselves from an industry already infested with corporate lobbyists and political gains. With a team of successful entrepreneurs, doctors, and cultivators, it's exciting to see what they'll have to offer in a continuously-changing market. Add that to their mission to uplift black communities that have experienced the most harmful effects of the War on Drugs, and you can't help but root for them. Green Essence plans on opening up more than 20 dispensaries around Florida in the next year and they are not holding back on what they believe needs changing in the Sunshine State. You'll find me in their dispensaries when they finally open up, and as Floridians, we should all support a business willing to do the work that corporate giants have already failed to acknowledge.

"We're here! We're coming full force!" -Jasmine Johnson

For updates and general information on Green Essence, visit their website here.


bottom of page