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Plantivia Wellness in Newark is Educating and Changing how the Marijuana Business affects Communities of Color

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Alexandra Hill
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Plantivia Wellness in Newark

With more and more states across the U.S. legalizing recreational marijuana use and with U.S. sales reportedly topping $37.4 billion in 2021, along with the legal CBD market, many across the garden state are looking to cash in on what’s becoming known as the green rus.

Here in Newark, one such black owned business is the first of its kind to do so, Plantivia Wellness recently opened up on Halsey St in the city’s Downtown District.

Plantivia Wellness offers curated Hemp-Derived CBD products.

Yes, CBD is perfectly legal in New Jersey. Both hemp and marijuana plants produce CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid. The state legalized medical marijuana in 2010, and in 2019, CBD sourced from hemp was also legalized following the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Rashad Davis is the company’s CEO. Davis, originally from North Carolina, is now a Newark resident and business owner. It is Davis’ rich family history in farming that has led him to help spread the knowledge of hemp and the hemp farming industry particularly in black and brown communities. CBD, whether derived from the hemp or the marijuana plant, is known to aide in the relief of anxiety, depression, and Joint or muscle pain.

“This is a very broad market that unfortunately in our community we’ve only seen a small piece of cue to the war on drugs, the industrialization of incarceration and we’ve missed a lot of the wellness piece of it and that’s why we’ve opened our business to really re-introduce people to these natural products. “

Davis says opening a cannabis based business in a state that has yet to flush out the details around what the marijuana marketplace will look like and when the has not been easy.

“There are a lot of hurdles, and you know the thing that we talk about is that a lot of this stuff is systemic, this business isn’t meant for people that look like us to be in it, and so there’s a lot that we have to teach them and we also have to push our way into it. Hemp and Cannabis is prevalent in our community, so its not like its something we don’t know about, but the commercialization of it is not prevalent in our communities.”

The enabling marijuana legalization legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy last year directs the CRC or the cannabis regulatory commission to begin adult use marijuana sales before Feb. 22, with 30-day notice beginning Jan. 23.

But there's a catch. The CRC is yet to issue any licenses for recreational marijuana sales.

Among the rules to guide the commission is priority for applications from companies owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans, as well as for those with past marijuana-related criminal offenses. Because of years of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Black residents Plantivia Wellness is actively in that application process. Evarra Evans is COO. Evans says there are many different ways people of color can benefit from the industry.

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WBGO's Alexandra Hill discusses the marijuana business

“We of course hope that we benefit people through our products providing relief for pain stress sleep all that kind of thing, but we also hope to educate the community on how to get into the business a lot people think that in order to get into the business you have to get into retail or you have to get into growing, but really whatever you do well, put weed behind it and your in the industry. So if you’re a photographer, photograph weed photograph cannabis, photograph people consuming, they need photos and things like that, people will pay for that, that puts you in the industry. If you’re a chef get into dosing, get into cooking with cannabis, that put s you in the industry, that costs a lot less than opening up a dispensary or opening up a store, so our intention is to provide those resources to people to let them know how to be able to tap into this green rush so nobody’s left behind.”

Despite the ongoing challenges and with a legal market for recreational marijuana still poised to launch in the coming months, multiple groups are now calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to go even further with loosening restrictions related to cannabis. urging him to utilize his executive clemency power to release anyone still incarcerated for cannabis-only convictions in New Jersey. The state has taken steps to decriminalize cannabis from multiple angles — since July, hundreds of thousands of marijuana and hashish cases have been expunged from court records and its no secret that those convictions have disproportionately affected men of color.

Darius Evans is a Marine Corp Veteran and photographer; he is also chief creative officer at Plantivia Wellness.

“It’s more to it than just being on the block its more tan just ingesting the pant via smoke. We are at a very pivotal point in our lives and in this country and its time for us to step up and take advantage of this opportunity that has been blocked from us for so long, lets flip the script on what it means to be a black man or be a black woman or any person of color using cannabis and lets talk about how its here to actually benefit or lives and lifestyles.

Evans says his is passion for cannabis stems from the medicinal benefits he has received like insomnia relief and treatment for PTSD and offers this advice for black men who hope to get into the business.

“Understand that what your putting out into the world via your own creative reflection within the cannabis industry represents something that’s much bigger than just you, so come into the game with a very strong nation of self respect and admiration for those who had to go through the struggles of cannabis prohibition all of their lives and have suffered jail time loss of income, work, and things of that nature. Just know that its going to be a lot of sleepless but know whatever you put out into the world of cannabis is going to improve upon it and you should absolutely do it right now.”

As Plantivia Wellness awaits the approval of their application by the CRC their brick and mortar store in downtown Newark is now open to the public where customers can learn about the benefits of both CBD and THC and can purchase CBD products ranging from edibles and topicals, flower products, and even CBD products for pets. COO Everra Evans says the biggest benefit of all their hard work is the happiness of their clients

“ If our customers are not happy they will be by the time they leave, we are literally the place of piece.”

Alexandra Hill began her work with WBGO in June of 2012 in the news department. A graduate of the Rutgers Newark journalism program, Alexandra was also a student of WBGO News Director Doug Doyle. Alexandra has since become the lead general assignment reporter, afternoon news anchor, and producer of the award winning live call in show Newark Today. Since working for WBGO Alexandra has covered politics in and around Newark including the 2014 mayoral campaign of Mayor Ras Baraka as well as the senate campaigns of former Newark Mayor and now U.S. Senator Cory Booker in both 2013 and 2014. Alexandra also covers a host of human-interest stories, and has been recognized by the New York Association Of Black Journalists for her piece entitled Sheltering Newark’s Homeless.