Her Story: Wanda James, the 1st Black woman to own a marijuana dispensary
By Jen Nicole
In 2009, James, a former Navy lieutenant who served on former President Barack Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee, and her husband, Scott Durrah, a renowned chef, opened the Apothecary of Colorado becoming the first Black people in Colorado to own a cannabis dispensary.
They eventually sold their dispensary-Apothecary and opened Simply Pure Medicated Edibles, which serviced over 450 dispensaries and one hospice program.
“According to New Cannabis Ventures, James and Durrah “were the first Manufacturer of Infused Products (MIP) to build their own grow facility, cook with 100% flower, not trim, guaranteed consistency and potency, and operated out [of] a commercial kitchen with all highly trained chefs.” Then a market shift occurred that demanded lower prices for highly potent edibles; so, because James and Durrah did not want to compromise their products, they closed Simply Pure and continued to work toward the full legalization of marijuana.”- theroot.com
“In 2012, Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana; now, 27 other states and the District of Columbia have joined in the boom.”- theroot.com
That’s when James and Durrah reopened Simply Pure, a full-service cannabis dispensary that specializes in medical and recreational marijuana, in 2015. The dispensary boasts a creative menu, ranging from chocolate bars to gourmet cooking oils, making cannabis use both exciting and accessible.
When TheRoot.com asked James how has she been received being the first Black wo-man to own and operate a marijuana dispensary, she said, You know what? It’s been amazing. I personally have never had any necessarily negative backlash. We were raided once, which was terrifying, back in 2010. But even then, the response to our raid was congressmen, senators and elected officials all came out and immediately let law enforcement know that we were a legal agency. Law enforcement apologized, brought all of our stuff. So, I have never, personally, had any negativity at all. But, then again, I don’t really allow anybody to come at me negative on this. I shut them down immediately when they even look like they want to start whatever it is that they want to start on, and the facts are amazing things in shutting people down.
While this accomplishment is remarkable in and of itself, James has not forgotten about the war on drugs that has decimated so many families across the country and is compelled to fight it.
What motivated James to combat the war on drugs, was when she learned about her brother, whom she didn’t meet until she was 35 years old, who received a 10-year sentence for 4.5 ounces of marijuana. Four years of that sentence was served picking cotton in Texas.
“He and his mother went in front of the judge,” James said in a 2016
Democracy Now interview. “The judge made my brother a felon. My brother spent four-and-a-half years picking cotton for free in Texas. I always stop on that note, and I say it again, that my Black brother, my Black 17-year-old brother, spent four-and-a-half years picking cotton for free in Texas to gain his freedom. That was in 1992, not 1892. This is absurd to me.”