(Left to right)Christa Barfield and Sheena Roberson hold a weekly a Smoke & Mirrors event on Wednesdays at Grow, Sip & Repeat. | Nichole Currie for Gtown Info Hub.

Cannabis Noire is educating Black and Brown people on how to get involved in the emerging cannabis industry in Pennsylvania.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 25, the Mt. Airy Tea Shop Grow Sip and Repeat and Cannabis Noire held a Smoke & Mirrors event. This was a chance for attendees to reflect on life’s stressors, learn about the cannabis industry and enjoy organically grown tea and hemp rolls.  And the mid-week event is the just the beginning of Cannabis Noire’s footprint in Northwest Philadelphia.

Cannabis Noire owner Sheena Roberson says her business offers;”Everything you need to know: what the plant does, how it works, how it affects your body, how to talk to your kids about it, how to start your own business, how to build your inventory, how to market, how to brand in this industry.”

Noire offers cannabis classes at the Northwest Learning Hub at 5838 Germantown Ave. Roberson’s mission is to enlighten minorities about cannabis, build successful cannabis businesses, medicinal regimes, and destigmatize the practice. The class prices vary and some are free. 

Roberson says  they are, making sure people understand marijuana “is a plant, it’s medicine, not just something to get high off.”

The cannabis market has expanded since Washington and Colorado led states in 2012, establishing the first marijuana market in the U.S. Although marijuana is only medicinally legal in Pennsylvania, Roberson said there are opportunities for minorities to participate. She began Cannabis Noire in 2018, helping communities destigmatize cannabis and decriminalize cannabis-related charges. 

A second group in Philly taking a fresh look at cannabis is the Black Dragon Breakfast Club. The lifestyle brand was established in 2019 by Tsehaitu Abye, who says the mission is to change the perception of cannabis. She says the right perception can lead to industry involvement. 

“For decades, years, we have been told that cannabis is going to make you lazy and hurt you,” Abye says. “So it’s [changing the perception] ultimately to make medicine accessible and to make sure that people of color are part of creating an industry that looks like them and speaks to them.”

In a 2017 study, Black people only made up 4.3 percent of the cannabis industry. Minority cannabis industry advocates point to the War on Drugs as a key reason for Blacks staying away from the cannabis industry The War on Drugs criminalized Black Americans for crimes like marijuana possession and use. 

Today, heavy regulation, the high cost of entry, and lack of information keep  minorities from entering the industry as owners, employees, patients, or consumers. Accessibility is a significant focus for store owner, Sheena Roberson. 

“One of the things that, you know, I was very adamant about always, was education, but also making sure that it was accessible,” Roberson said. “So we partner with a bunch of different organizations and companies to help sponsor some of some students.”

Herbology, Cage Free Cannabis and Balanced Veterans are a few advocacy groups or dispensaries who have sponsored students in Roberson’s courses.

Along with pointing out the financial  benefits of the cannabis industry, Roberson is also educating people on the physical benefits.  

Christa Barfield, the owner of the Northwest Hub, has dabbled in the industry due to her 17-year-old son’s mild case of Tourettes syndrome. The mother uses CBD extraction for her son and says that cannabis medicine gives him fewer side effects than anything else.

“The psychoactive drugs that they offer have all these crazy side effects, one major one being weight loss or appetite loss,” Barfield says. “He also didn’t like the medication because it also caused grogginess and made him sleepy. So I decided to introduce CBD and hemp into a hemp regimen into his life, and we definitely saw a clear change. “

The Black Dragon Breakfast Club currently assists individuals with medical marijuana card registration in PA, and Roberson’s courses are all virtual now since the state  introduced new COVID-19 restrictions Monday, Nov.16. If you’re interested in learning more about Cannabis Noire’s courses, visit Northwest Learning Hub website or Cannabis Noire website.