When Whitney Beatty & Ebony McGee Andersen first came up with the idea of Josephine and Billie’s cannabis speakeasy, they knew they’d be up against some challenges. As working mothers and Black women in the cannabis space, Beatty & Andersen also knew what they had to do to overcome those challenges.
“Women, in general, have issues with access, but Black women in the cannabis space? Oh, the stories,” Beatty tells AfroTech. “And we knew we’d be facing the same thing — which is why we are so lucky that we got Jay-Z and The Parent Company to invest in our concept.”
Josephine and Billie’s aims to create an inclusive and equitable society and a legal cannabis industry in which Black and minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity, access, and financial and logistical support to build peak levels of success and value for their communities.
“In my former role as an urban planner, I can certainly attest how important investment is to the success of a business,” said Andersen. “But, more than that, it’s also about staying on top of, not only cannabis policies but also on top of that, to stay on top of diversity and social equity opportunities in the space. And, we can’t deny that as consumers, we’re quite powerful — and we know what we have to do to market to those consumers.”
Andersen is right. While more Americans are turning away from traditional OTC drugs for things like anxiety and chronic pain, many Black women don’t feel at ease accessing the amazing plant medicine that is cannabis despite being more likely to experience these ailments. The reason, of course, is self-evident, with mass incarceration of Black and LatinX men for petty marijuana offenses reaching a peak during the Reagan years and the “Just Say No” trope.
The racialization of marijuana — as Beatty points out — is yet another reason why the space these women provide is necessary. “We know what we need, and let’s be real — we feel more comfortable when we see someone that looks like us, right?” she said, rhetorically.
And while 72% of the female population in Los Angeles identify as women of color, Josephine and Billie’s takes the marijuana prevalence a step further by creating a space where Black women feel safe to shop, stay, relax, and learn about cannabis at their own pace.
And that’s why it made sense for Jay-Z and TPCO to select Josephine and Billie’s as their first social equity corporate venture fund investment. While the terms of the deal weren’t disclosed as of press time, the speakeasy is expected to open its first retail location before the end of the year with its new investment.
“All in all, I expect it to be the first of many,” said Andersen. “More than anything else, I just want to provide access, and accessibility, to Black women with this venture — and show others that we can do it, too.”
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.