Vanessa Jean-Baptiste has been taking moments to pause and enjoy the moment, as a years-long dream of opening a cannabis dispensary in Brockton come true.
“Day by day I tell myself, sit back, relax and enjoy the moment because there’s a lot that’s happening but I’m definitely grateful for where we are right now,” Jean-Baptiste said in a phone interview Friday.
Legal Greens is opening its doors Sunday as the first Black woman-owned recreational cannabis store on the East Coast, said Jean-Baptiste, a Brockton native and first-generation Haitian-American. And Jean-Baptiste along with co-owner Mark Bouquet are the first Haitian-Americans to open a dispensary in the U.S., she said.
“We fought really hard to get to where we’re at and it’s amazing to have the title with it,” Jean-Baptiste said. “The fact that we’re looking like we’re going to be the first fully recreational company in Brockton to open is huge within itself because we were looked at as the underdog and people didn’t think we were going to get this far.”
In 2018, Jean-Baptiste struggled to negotiate a host community agreement with Brockton, a necessary step to move forward in getting a license through the state Cannabis Control Commission. Once she had an HCA, having priority status as an economic empowerment applicant with the CCC helped Jean-Baptiste move through the licensing process.
Despite the state’s economic empowerment and social equity programs, created to benefit applicants who were disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition, much of the legal industry in Massachusetts is white.
Jean-Baptiste said she’d like to see legislation regarding host community agreements be enacted to help address the issue. She said wants municipalities to have measuring criteria on which businesses are receiving HCAs.
“With more small businesses opening up, we’ll be able to show municipalities that small businesses matter as well as big corporate businesses,” Jean-Baptiste said.