Kika Keith of Gorilla RX
Kika Keith of Gorilla RX

Who is Kika Keith? - The First Black Woman to Open a Dispensary in Los Angeles

Los Angeles now has a Black, female-owned dispensary for the first time.

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Wednesday Dec 1, 2021

kika keith gorilla rx

On August 25th, Kika Keith beat the odds to establish Gorilla Rx Cannabis Dispensary, the first black woman-owned cannabis store on Crenshaw Boulevard. According to the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation, there are hundreds of cannabis dispensaries located across Los Angeles, but only one is owned by a black woman—Kika Keith.

Despite being dominated by black consumers, the cannabis retail industry in Los Angeles and California as a whole is majorly made up of white and Caucasian dispensary owners. Since the recreational industry was legalized in 2016, non-black-owned dispensaries have set up shop within the black communities, only to take funds out of the local communities and invest in non-black communities.

Who is Kika Keith?

Kika Keith was born and bred in the Crenshaw District of the Los Angeles region. While growing up, she experienced firsthand how black communities were stifled by the war on drugs. Incarcerations of many breadwinners are hindering income and employment opportunities.

All her life, Kika has fought for the inclusion of the black and disadvantaged communities to be included in city projects. In 2017, when Los Angeles introduced a social equity program for cannabis businesses, black communities were first exempted. Thanks to her immense efforts, as well as the efforts of other cannabis advocates, the black community was gradually included. And now, she has opened up her very own cannabis dispensary just south of Stocker Street, at a premium location next door to Maverick's flat.

Kika's way of giving back to her community is through Gorilla Rx. She worked hard to make sure her community finally had a black-owned cannabis store that was owned by someone from within, rather than a non-black owner. With this establishment, she's serving as a good example for young black children in the area, as well as erasing the stigma that comes along with cannabis use.

The Road To Gorilla Rx

Kika Keith is a co-founder of the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association (SEOWA). She also took part in Weedmaps' 2020 docuseries "Uprooted."During the show, she discussed the partial equity of cannabis regulations stacked against persons of color in the industry.

Kika began the process of establishing Gorilla Rx three years ago, struggling to obtain a dispensary license. This process dragged on until a lawsuit was filed through SEOWA. The matter was resolved nine months after the lawsuit was filed, with 100 rental licenses granted to the applicants involved. During this time, the storefront leased on Crenshaw Boulevard remained unused, and Kika was forced to pay to retain the space.

Getting A Clean Slate

The stigma associated with cannabis use cannot be wiped off automatically. It will be erased gradually through the inclusion and education of the younger generation.

In an interview, Kika Keith mentioned that the majority of the people in colored communities have been caught up in the cannabis stigma. It doesn't really matter if they have smoked it or not; people always think they are smoking it.

Kika believes that people have to turn away from only focusing on the negatives of cannabis and should instead focus on the positives. Cannabis has so many uses and medical benefits. So many illnesses can be treated and managed with cannabis via various application methods.

Kika added that the public needs to look into how cannabis affects our endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The goal of every black cannabis advocate is to erase the stigma and show everyone that cannabis is not a bad thing. It can improve a person's well-being as well as be a regular part of their lifestyle.

Smoking cannabis is just one of the many ways of using the plant. There are so many products, like tinctures, drinkables, edibles, pills, etc. Cannabis is a lot more than smoking a joint and getting high. The community needs to realize this before outsiders can.

Giving Back To The Community

LA Cannabis dispensaries are highly profitable businesses, especially those set up in black neighborhoods. This is the major reason why many non-black owners set up shop in these communities. They are in it to make a profit and enrich themselves without reinvesting back into the areas.

Kika Keith explained that Gorilla Rx was primarily established to give back to the community. She stated that the profits gained from the business would be reinvested back into the neighborhood. Her main objective is to ensure the wealth and health of the Crenshaw District grow and ascend significantly. A failure of the community to do so would create a problem for this generation and the next.

To further prove her point, Kika made sure all the employees at Gorilla Rx were from the Crenshaw District. This is uncommon, as most cannabis dispensaries in black communities tend not to hire from the local area. Efforts like this encourage other local activists and community development associations to request that other cannabis dispensaries in the area give back to the community.

An example of such a dispensary that failed to give back to the neighborhood is LA Cannabis Co... This brand operated within Crenshaw for about 10 years before residents boycotted it. During their stay, they failed to hire from the local workforce, nor did they beautify or donate to the community chest. In Kika's words, they came to Crenshaw, brought in members of their families, took money from residents, and reinvested it in their part of the state.

Gorilla Rx has a community benefits plan. A percentage of the total revenue generated will be bestowed on non-profit organizations in the community. Kika added that Sweet String, her non-profit organization, will be used for this. stating that it was a better sustainable model in the long term.

Final Note

It was a hard and long battle from the day Kika Keith began processing the files for her store to the day she finally opened the doors of Gorilla Rx Wellness Centre to the public. Like Kika said, seeing a black business thrive in the cannabis sector would be a source of motivation, hope, and positive stories for the younger generation in the community.

The fight for inclusion and social equity is a long way from being won, but with more success stories like Kika Keith's, victory would be a step closer.





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