‘Push the needle toward justice;’ for Niambe McIntosh, first purchase at Pure Oasis is embedded in cannabis activism, family history

Pure Oasis Director of operations Mike Whittaker, Pure Oasis co-owner Kobie Evans, Cannabis Control Commission Commissioner Shaleen Title, first customer Niambe McIntosh and Pure Oasis co-owner Kevin Hart.

Making the first purchase of marijuana at Pure Oasis, Boston’s first recreational dispensary and the state’s first equity business, was about more than just buying weed for Niambe McIntosh.

McIntosh grew up just a few blocks from the dispensary, which opened at 11 a.m. on Blue Hill Avenue in the Grove Hall part of Dorchester. Her father, Peter Tosh, was a legendary Jamaican reggae musician and activist who was killed in 1987. Her brother, Jawara McIntosh, a musician and cannabis activist, was attacked in 2017 while incarcerated in New Jersey for cannabis possession.

Seeing a marijuana dispensary owned by black men open up in a neighborhood that deeply felt the effects of the war on drugs feels like a move toward justice, McIntosh said.

“My family, in particular, I look at my father who was a global activist for cannabis legalization and a Rastafarian and then, my brother Jawara, who is now suffering from a traumatic brain injury after being arrested for cannabis charges but then attacked by another inmate while incarcerated, so as a nonviolent offender, he’s faced the ultimate consequences of what cannabis prohibition really does to families,” she said. “He’s unable to walk, talk, he’s bedbound. So having this be like blocks from the life that we grew up in and seeing the harms, it really feels victorious.”

That put extra meaning behind McIntosh’s purchase, which included a smokeless Moroccan ashtray, some Sativa flower, and a tincture for her brother, who can only take fluids through a G-tube.

“Sharing this legacy with Pure Oasis, growing up only blocks from here is such an honor and I’m glad we’re able to push the needle toward justice, make sure equity is at the forefront and really I’m honored to just be a part of it,” she said. “This really just begins to move the needle. It won’t change the past but we can slowly make steps to really help the community.”

McIntosh was an educator with the Boston Public Schools for 10 years and said that experience provided her a smooth transition into carrying on her father’s mission. McIntosh is the head of the Peter Tosh Estate and Brand. The Peter Tosh Foundation works to continue Tosh’s fight to legalize cannabis.

“He educated people through music and sang about equal rights and justice. It’s something that as his youngest child, I get to learn so much about him in a different way and have a closer connection with him than I did when he was alive because he passed when I was really young,” she said.

Now that Massachusetts has legal marijuana and finally has an economic empowerment business up and running, McIntosh said it’s important people support the dispensary.

“I think it’s really important that people understand the core values of Pure Oasis and put their money where their core values lie,” she said. “We have a lot of places that we can choose now to spend money and buy cannabis but I think that it’s really, really important that we put our money where our mouth is.”

Pure Oasis has hired about 34 people, including many from the Grove Hall area. Some employees have criminal backgrounds. One of the business’ missions is giving back and giving people a second chance, all while supporting the community, said co-owner Kobie Evans.

“We set out on this journey a long time ago to show people who look like us that if you work hard and you persevere then success is soon to come,” co-owner Kevin Hart said.

In recent months, the state Cannabis Control Commission has received complaints that it has taken far too long for equity applicants to get a license, as they face roadblocks obtaining funding, host community agreements and making their way through the licensing process.

Evans has said obtaining a host community agreement with the city of Boston was the toughest part of the process for Pure Oasis.

“It’s really exciting to see the concept of economic empowerment come to life,” Commissioner Shaleen Title of the CCC said minutes after the first sale. “Pure Oasis has set a wonderful precedent here. I think we’ll see many more of these stores that are hiring people from the community, that are giving back to the community, and that are fulfilling the vision that Massachusetts voters had.”

Title noted that the entire marijuana rollout has been slow across Massachusetts as the industry was built from scratch.

“Fulfilling the vision of equity is particularly difficult because no other state has done it and it takes a lot of collaboration at different levels,” she said. “What we can do now is look at what has worked here and particularly I encourage businesses and local officials that want to contribute to this goal to contact the commission and make use of the tools and resources that we have available.”

By Melissa Hanson |

POSTED ON: March 9th, 2020

Categories: JawaraNiambe

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