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Owner of new, Black-owned dispensary in Springfield hopes to 'destigmatize cannabis use'

As Payton Shubrick gets ready for the grand opening of her cannabis dispensary, 6 Bricks, in Springfield on Saturday, she said she's keeping in mind the fraught history of how cannabis possession disproportionately affected people of color.

"We're acknowledging a checkered history, but we're trying to progress forward with an inclusive future, which is to say we understand what happened and we want to create something new here for those that were both impacted positively or negatively and progress forward with that understanding," Shubrick said.

6 Bricks is only one of four minority and women-owned retailers in Massachusetts, according to the Cannabis Control Commission.

Shubrick said she wants to engage the Springfield community by offering educational events for people to learn about the different effects each cannabis strain has and how it impacts the body.

She said she's hoping to destigmatize cannabis use and, instead, "leverage it for economic growth" in downtown Springfield.

The name '6 Bricks' is a play off Shubrick's last name and the six members of her family who are also helping her run the business.

Shubrick said she secured their host community agreement, which is required for any cannabis retailer under state law, in 2019, but after the pandemic hit in 2020, it was difficult for her to open.

"The licensure process is not designed in a way that allows many folks who are in similar positions to myself, newly graduated, figuring out what you want to be in life, to really engage with the process without being intentional and deliberate about wanting to get it done," Shubrick said. "When you think about the dollars and cents, you're talking anywhere between $1.5 to $3 million for a retail license, and that's just retail. If you're looking at communities like the city of Springfield and taking into consideration the average annual household income, these are not dollars and cents that anyone takes on lightly."

As of Sept. 1 the legal cannabis industry in Massachusetts included 434 recreational and 98 medical licensees.

But despite Massachusetts being the first state in the country to mandate that equity and inclusion be part of its legal cannabis framework, of the 346 marijuana businesses that had started operations as of the start of this year, just 20 (less than 6%) were led by economic empowerment entrepreneurs or were connected to participants in the cannabis commission's social equity program, Cannabis Policy Committee co-chair Rep. Dan Donahue, D- Worcester, said in May.

Despite the challenges, Shubrick said she's excited to have her business in Springfield and feels it's more important than ever, since only 2% of the cannabis industry is Black-owned.

This report includes information from State House News Service.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.