Trenton Makes The World Takes: A Q&A with Tahir Johnson, CEO of Simply Pure Trenton

Trenton Makes The World Takes: A Q&A with Tahir Johnson, CEO of Simply Pure Trenton

Tahir Johnson is the founder and CEO of simply pure trenton, the first licensed black-owned social equity clinic in New Jersey. He is a well-known cannabis advocate and has held leadership roles in the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and the National Cannabis Council. Tahir was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey. That’s why it’s really special to come full circle and start a pharmacy in his hometown.

Growing up in New Jersey, graduating from Howard University, working in finance and wealth management at companies such as Morgan Stanley, and finally returning home to start his own business, he epitomizes Trenton’s success story. Masu.

Mr. Tahir will speak at the following events cannabis quality conference Ahead of his presentation there, we met with Tahir to hear a little more about his background, his thoughts on social equity, and the advice he can offer other minority cannabis entrepreneurs.

Cannabis Industry Journal: Tell Us A Little About Yourself – What’s Your Story?

Tahir Johnson, Founder and CEO of Simply Pure Trenton

Tahir Johnson: My name is Tahir Johnson, Founder and CEO of Simple Pure Trenton. I was born and raised here in Trenton. I am a graduate of Howard University. I have spent most of my life in the last few years in the DC area of ​​Maryland. I went home, applied for a license, and thankfully got one. I am one of his first 11 dispensing pharmacy licenses issued last year. I licensed this brand from my good friend Wanda James, founder of the original Simply Pure in Denver, Colorado. She started the first black-owned pharmacy in the country. She is thrilled to continue this legacy of hers.

Before using cannabis, I spent most of my career working in finance. I entered the industry in 2019, starting as a battender after quitting my job in finance and working in a pharmacy. I started advocacy, in 2019 he joined the NCIA, then the Marijuana Policy Project and he worked for the American Cannabis Council in 2021, where he worked until he started this dispensary. After being away for 22 years, it’s great to be home and close to family. I’m really excited to be on track to open New Jersey’s first black-owned social equity clinic.

CIJ: Tell us about Simply Pure. Please tell us how you started this pharmacy and how you met Wanda.

Tahir: So, I met Wanda in 2019 while I was at NCIA. In the beginning, there was no such thing as opening a pharmacy at the time. I was just networking and finding like-minded minority people in the business world for potential future collaborations. Wanda, I consider her an OG. She has been a friend and mentor since the beginning. So when I first thought about applying for a license in New Jersey, I knew Wanda wanted to grow up and do business outside of Denver. I went up to her and asked her about her partnering relationship and to see if she wanted to do this with me. She gratefully agreed and the rest became history.

Tahir Johnson (left), Wanda James (middle), John Dockery (right)

CIJ: Can you give us a timeline of how Simply Pure Trenton started? Where are you now? What obstacles do you have to overcome?

Tahir: Granted, I got my conditional license in May of last year and my annual license in April of this year. An early hurdle was definitely access to capital. Thankfully, I was one of the first licensees and I believe my background and network helped me access the funding. The biggest barrier is that there are so many moving parts when it comes to getting a license. Getting a license is only part of it. Then getting local approval is another obstacle. But getting a building permit is one of the biggest obstacles I’ve ever faced. If you ask me what my biggest obstacle is, it’s building permits. That’s because New Jersey requires approvals from several different outside agencies that have nothing to do with architecture or cannabis ore. The latest approval we are waiting for is from Raritan and the Delaware Canal Commission, but I’m wondering what the heck that has to do with building the interior of my space. I know what you mean, but all I have to go through is a lot of bureaucracy and diplomacy. It has a lot of very unexpected things!

CIJ: Okay, let’s switch gears a bit here. How would you define social equity in the current state of the cannabis industry and its current state? What does economic empowerment mean to you?

Tahir: The first thing I would like to say is that social equity in cannabis is the idea that people, especially those most affected by the war on drugs, should have the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry. This is very important because we are building a whole new industry and building a multi-billion dollar industry. In my opinion, the people most affected by the war on drugs are generally Black, Indigenous, and Latinx. So blacks and browns are the ones most affected by the war on drugs. The same people who were four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis should at least have a chance to own this new industry if we are to introduce a new legal system.

Simply Pure pharmacy storefront rendering

Economic empowerment is one of the greatest parts of social equity. In fact, that’s what first drew me to cannabis. Looking at the cannabis opportunity, it’s a tough business to get into, but much harder to get into if you lack access to capital. From my career in finance, if you look at the black community, we’re one tenth as wealthy as the white community. When you look at such a cash-centric business, you need personal wealth and access to venture capital and private equity, in addition to getting regular business loans from banks. Well, our community doesn’t have much access to that sort of thing because of our backgrounds, networks, and education. So social equity is the idea that there should be some support systems in place that help bring the opportunities of the cannabis industry to us.

As part of that, we acquire licenses and grant access to the licensing process. Another part of this problem that has been managed more recently is ensuring that wealth is actually distributed through programs and policies. Maybe not everyone wanted to start a dispensing pharmacy like I did, but they were still deeply affected by the war on drugs. It’s great to see the tax dollars generated by the cannabis industry go back to the community to fund the rebuilding and revitalization of the project. Ultimately, it’s about leveling the playing field to create opportunities for those who deserve them.Tahir Johnson will speak at the Cannabis Quality Conference October 16-18 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Click here for more information.

CIJ: What does community mean to you? How does your business fit into and support the cannabis communities of Trenton and New Jersey?

Tahir: For me, one of the things I’m most proud of growing up in Trenton is the “Trenton Makes, The World Takes” sign on the bridge. As a child, the area was an industrial city. Both of my grandparents were able to get good jobs in factories to support their families, but many have left the city for many years and remain economically depressed. I’ve had my car stopped, arrested, and my family locked up because of cannabis. So the idea that through cannabis we can build something positive in our community, create jobs and wealth in our community and have the opportunity to give back in the same place is great. I see this as the future economy and opportunity. New Jersey, in particular, has one of the largest racial disparities in arrests. Many of them are from cannabis. As a kid, I remember feeling searched every time I was pulled over. I had a real situation where I had seeds and cockroaches in my car and I had to decide who was going to jail today because of the cockroaches. How many lives have been impacted and changed by cannabis arrests alone?

The biggest thing for me was being able to inspire people and make my community proud when talking about my community. For us, we haven’t seen many people do it and have success. So being able to have this opportunity and actually be able to do this from here is one of my biggest motivations and I want people in my community and across the state to know that we can be successful in business. can indicate We often hear how difficult it is and how success in business seems like an impossible mission for many, but we accomplished that mission and gave hope to the people where I come from. And being able to inspire is something really special.

CIJ: If you could give yourself advice 10 years ago, what advice would you give to other BIPOC entrepreneurs trying to make it in the cannabis industry?

Tahir: See where I was 10 years ago. I want you to always keep hope and keep faith. Things get tough, but as long as you keep to your vision and your path, you’ll be fine. My point to other cannabis entrepreneurs is pretty much the same. This is hard as fuck. It’s very difficult. You have to get up no matter how many times you fall. Don’t believe the hype. Just because you can do it, don’t let anyone believe you can’t. You need to believe in yourself even if people don’t.

This is really true if you’re a minority entrepreneur. You really have to get better and stronger. Please educate yourself. Take the time to network with people who are similar to you and those who are not. First, build a team and support system. We want you to be able to build too. Some of the allies who support you may not come from the same community or background as you. I wouldn’t be here without the incredible diversity of people who believed in me. Work hard, network and believe in yourself because no one else will believe in you. If you work hard, you will succeed in whatever you want to do.

Tahir Johnson (left) and John Dockery (right)

CIJ: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

Tahir: Yes, in addition to my license, my dear childhood friend John Dockery is also opening another Simply Pure store in downtown Trenton, which is really exciting. I’m really looking forward to achieving all of this to reach the finish line and open. One of the biggest things I would like to add is that so many people are counting on us for this, so many jobs are waiting, waiting for me to serve. Community, I think that’s what we face with all of this. It’s a typical delay in this industry with a long road from obtaining approval to opening and operation. Many have been anticipating our opening and although there have been some delays, we are excited to be opening soon and expect to be open by October at the latest.

Alexandra Solorio
Introducing Alexandra, an accomplished cannabis writer who has passionately pursued her craft for a decade. Through a decade-long journey, Alexandra has cultivated a profound connection with the cannabis world, translating her expertise into captivating prose. From unraveling the plant's rich history to exploring its therapeutic marvels and legal evolution, she has adeptly catered to both connoisseurs and newcomers. An unwavering advocate, Alexandra's words not only enlighten but also advocate responsible cannabis use, establishing her as an indispensable industry voice over the past ten years.

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