Black-owned dispensary operator honored for social justice work

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Wanda James is the first Black woman to own a legally licensed marijuana dispensary in America.

DENVER — Wanda James, the CEO of Simply Pure dispensary in Denver, is being honored by the advertising magazine Adweek as one of 35 inspirational women trailblazers – the publication honors women who are building a better future for everyone.

“By a publication whose whole premise is showing the best brands in America and all of a sudden here we are,” said James. “I can’t stop smiling … I’m so proud of the work we do and so proud of our team and proud of the company.”

James and her husband Scott Durrah started their company in 2010 and are the first African-Americans legally licensed in America to own a dispensary, edible company and cultivation facility. 

She said their shop is one of three dispensaries that are Black-owned out of 717 dispensaries, and their goal is working for social justice for people of color.

“We wanted to be able to politically speak about the issues of mass incarceration, police harassment in Black and brown communities,” James said. “Being political in Colorado and having a dispensary in Colorado has brought together all of the things I love to do in my life and to be able to make a difference and affect change.”

James said their next step is to launch their own line of products called BCause, with part of the profits helping send Black and brown students to law schools at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“If cannabis could have sent Black and brown kids to prison, I want cannabis to send Black and brown kids to law school,” James said. “We want to be able to give HBCU’s the money to send Black kids and brown kids to a full ride and in turn, those brand-new attorney’s that are coming out of college, they pay us back by doing community involvement in the communities of which they grew up in.”

Adweek honors went to women like Vice-President Kamala Harris, screenwriter and actress Justine Bateman and Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC.

“I’m still grinning from ear to ear,” James said. “It was absolutely amazing to be named alongside these phenomenal women.”

James said she hopes this honor will bring a positive awareness about the cannabis industry while blazing a trail for others walking in her footsteps.

“We just want to be able to give flight to people who want to do good and do well…in their communities and neighborhoods,” she said. “We’re hoping to be able to spawn that next generation of amazingly brilliant minds to do phenomenal things.”

Find a complete list of all the winners.  


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