By Brianna Rhodes, Special to the AFRO 

Mary and Main founders, Hope Wiseman, and her mother Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman, are on a mission to educate and provide quality medical cannabis products to the Black community in Prince George’s County.

Wiseman, who became the youngest Black dispensary owner in the U.S. last year, founded Mary and Main not only as a business, but out of the desire to provide people in the community affordable access to medical cannabis.

Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman and Hope Wiseman (Courtesy Photo)

As Wiseman continued to learn more about the history of the plant and the history of drugs, she became very passionate about the social justice aspect of the industry and saw it as a great opportunity to help African Americans who were negatively affected by cannabis itself as well. Wiseman and Simkins-Wiseman are hoping to change the stigma behind cannabis within the Black community by educating patients about its health benefits.

“It is hard to forget something that we’ve been put in jail for, had to pay fines and be locked up for and for people being told that it causes them to have mindful thoughts that are not positive. So it’s hard to change someone’s mind overnight,” Wiseman told the AFRO. “I believe though that with the cannabis, the plant is going to change their mind once they learn that this particular plant was used before the 1930s- before this ban came about- in almost every medicine that we had in the United States. So for it to have been taken out of those products was the first thing that kind of went wrong.”

Simkins-Wiseman believes once people know that cannabis and its products are all natural and can help them with certain illnesses and symptoms such as anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, or autoimmune disease, they will be more open to using the products.

“I do believe once people know that they can get the medicine in Maryland, how to get the medicine and come to a place like Mary and Main where we will give that extra energy to make sure that they understand, I believe that they’re going to be satisfied and continue to use it,” Simkins-Wiseman told the AFRO.

Patients and the public will have the opportunity be educated on the basics around the history and science behind cannabis. They can come in and learn about the product and its effect and how to use it so that they can understand what’s happening in their bodies.

“So we’re really going to stick heavily on education and work with our community, different community activities and community groups–that kind of thing so we can begin to teach its positive effects,” Simkins-Wiseman said.

Wiseman is also hoping that patients can spread the word by telling their experiences as well.

“I think just telling your experiences will help the African-American community,” Wiseman said. “Nothing inspires African-Americans more than hearing somebody else say you know this is what happened to me. Especially if it’s someone that they can relate to because a lot of times  when they’re seeing this stuff on TV, they’re not seeing Black and Brown people.”

Wiseman said the dispensary offers a comfortable yet professional atmosphere.

“When you walk in we definitely have a specific look,” Wiseman said. “All the wood–the wood contrasted with the gray and it’s just very bright and inviting which is especially interesting seeing as we have no windows in our dispensary but still you feel like your in a kind of oasis. So that was definitely our goal, to make people just comfortable and be a place where they wanted to be.”

Also since there are few dispensaries that are owned by African-Americans, patients of color will be able to receive services from knowledgeable employees who look like them and live in their community.

She wants people to feel comfortable to come in and ask questions and buy their medicine, especially those members of the African American community who’ve been scarred by the war on drugs.

“Everyone in African American communities has been affected by the war on drugs either directly or indirectly by a family member or a close friend,” Wiseman said. “So I think it’s extremely important that representation happens…That’s why I was so excited when we were awarded the license in Prince George’s County.”

“Its where I’m from and these are my people,” she added. “This is my community and I’m so happy I get to give back to the place where I came from.”

What also makes the dispensary unique is that its a true family owned business as well. Dispensary manager, Dexter Parker and Dr. Larry Bryant, business partner of Mary and Main, are longtime friends of the family.

“We love each other and we’re so excited about being here and in this community,” Wiseman said. “I don’t know if you’re going to be around too many authentically happy and proud people like you would experiencing Mary and Main. I mean a lot of people have fought hard for this industry but we have literally dedicated our lives to this.”