By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, mgray@afro.com

When Hope Wiseman graduated from Spelman College she had the world in the palm of her hand. After earning her degree from the  prestigious all women’s Historically Black College in Atlanta she had the chance to become a successful investment banker but instead chose to invest in herself.

At 26, Wiseman is approaching the one-year anniversary of being the first African American owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Maryland.  Mary and Main opened at Hampton Mall in Capitol Heights last September. She has been acclaimed for venturing into a space where there were few Black predecessors.

Mary and Main, owned by Hope Wiseman, 26, her mother Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman, and co-founders, Dr. Larry Bryant and Dexter Parker, is the first African American owned medical marijuana dispensary in Maryland. (Courtesy Photo)

Wiseman started the business with her mother, Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman, and co-founders, Dr. Larry Bryant and Dexter Parker.  She and her mother were naive about the industry when they took the well educated leap of faith. However, after her extensive research Wiseman learned there was a real chance to become a trailblazer and an opportunity to make an impact in an untapped market- Maryland.  

“I knew I had the ability to develop a platform to inspire other people to do it,” Wiseman said in a 2017 interview with the blog Estrohaze. “It’s one thing to hear a 60-year-old woman who made it in the industry saying “I think more young people need to get involved versus a millennial actually doing it.”

Her business gamble appears to be paying off.  The marijuana industry has taken off and looks to be solvent for years to come.  Despite critics and social debate it remains a commodity that continues to pay dividends on the stock market as more states continue to legalize the controversial drug.  Wiseman’s business acumen and her research appear to be having big results.

Mary and Main, is not a recreational “head shop,” where customers purchase legal paraphernalia to use the illegally purchased drug for non-medical reasons.  The dispensary offers an array of items that help patients deal with a variety of health issues. Patients can also take advantage of the consulting services giving them options and information on the health benefits of the drug.

“We’re not going to offer the typical mom and pop establishment experience where you just walk in and find some “weed in a jar,” Wiseman projected in that 2017 Estrohaze interview.  “Our employees will all be extremely educated on the plant itself so you’ll be able to have a conversation and get to understand what you’re using,” she said.

Their instagram account promotes several of the alternative uses that the public may not fully be aware of as the opponents of legalization continue their resistance.  It cites how certain strains of marijuana can be used as options to treat pain rather than opioids, which have become epidemic where abusers have become addicted leading to a healthcare crisis in America.

Mary and Main has also earned a reputation for educating the public through free cannabis education courses in the store.  With two doctors as part of their ownership group, the awareness of potential clients can grow immensely through their educational initiatives.   Judging by the remarks shared by their clients, the customer service has led to their immediate success.

However, Wiseman’s plans are bigger than just operating a dispensary in one store in her home state.  She continues to try to advance its brand by serving as a role model for millennial entrepreneurs looking to break into this fledgling industry.  The long range goals are to make franchise opportunities available in Maryland and around the country.