How Sheena Roberson Became ‘the Olivia Pope of Dope’ – Culture

Sheena Roberson and attendees of the Official Cannabis Conference for Women of Color

Sheena M. Roberson is affectionately known as “The Olivia Pope of Dope,” and her track record backs it up. The entrepreneur, marketing expert and activist is the founder of Cannabis Noire, a company focused on providing education and resources to underrepresented groups within the cannabis industry. Roberson is also the creator of the Higher Conference, a startup conference aimed at creating a space for BIPOC women in the cannabis sector to learn more about the industry in ways that can help them elevate and/or grow their businesses as cannabis entrepreneurs start.

According to a survey by MJBizDaily, men make up nearly 80% of cannabis business owners. Black entrepreneurs represent just 2% of companies in the $18 billion industry. Additionally, women are becoming more prominent as cannabis consumers; they represent 48% of first-time cannabis buyers.

“One of my goals with Higher is for it to be my love letter to Black women, and I’ve been very focused on creating the Essence Festival of cannabis. That’s what I envisioned, a festival, a family reunion of black and brown women who could just exhale and feel comfortable speaking their truth without having to charm the other people in the audience, or teach people why they feel that way. Roberson tells AURN.

Sheena Roberson at the Official Cannabis Conference for Women of Color

But it took Roberson a while to get here. Growing up in Philadelphia during the DARE era, she learned about drugs that they were destructive, and seeing people become addicted, and seeing people get decades in prison during the war on drugs, didn’t leave a good impression either.

“I’m from North Philadelphia. I grew up in a community affected by the war on drugs. Cannabis was always present in my community and my family. I now have cousins ​​in prison because of cannabis,” she explains. “I’ve seen addiction, the full extent of overcriminalization. Growing up, I was never interested in anything about cannabis in terms of personal use because it was very stigmatized.”

Roberson’s perception began to change when she went to college. She started experiencing extreme anxiety, but still had no understanding of mental health. Eventually a friend was introduced to cannabis. She praised its calming benefits, but giving in to the offer wasn’t easy. Unable to shake her upbringing and her negative associations with the drug, she wondered why her friend and fellow student, an engineering student, would make her such an offer.

“I thought about how she was at the top of her class, she was one of the most respected sorority women on campus and she said, ‘I’m not a drug addict,’ and it started to click for me that this wasn’t the case . what I thought it was, and so I tried it, and I realized it right away,” Roberson says. “I discovered myself, and really had to take a step back and reevaluate the perceptions that I had, and it opened me up to a lot of different things, and I went from studying business law to criminal law, and realized at that moment that a large part of what the criminal justice system was built around was overcriminalization, which impacted black and brown people the most.”

After graduating, Roberson embarked on a career involving community outreach and marketing for a variety of organizations, including Boys and Girls Club Inc, Urban League of Philadelphia and even the business side of Chick-fil-A in Atlanta.

Things changed for Roberson, as life often does, when her mother became extremely ill for the second time. That brought Roberson back to her hometown, and navigating the process of caring for her mother taught her a lot about health care policy, and especially about women’s health. Through it all, Roberson was able to better manage her anxiety with cannabis and learn more about its therapeutic uses. By chance, she came across an educational symposium on the business and noticed that none of the attendees looked like her, but the information was robust and covered agriculture, marketing, real estate, business development and finance.

“The entire industry was literally being mapped out and discussed, and there wasn’t one person in the room who looked like me, unless they were representing athletes for healthcare, and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ she explains. ‘Meanwhile, my cousin is now asking for money for his books, and I’m walking around while they’re talking. Plus, their pharmacies are operating in the city and I’m thinking to myself, ‘How is this room full of people , people from outside the city, from all over the country, benefit from this?’ It meant they weren’t promoting me or my community. They were specifically making sure the people they wanted in the room were in the room, and I was baffled because they were trying to sneak and corporateize weed.

The rest, as they say, history.

The upcoming Higher Conference, the second of its kind after last year’s first and hugely successful smaller event, will take place in Philadelphia from June 21-23. Participants can expect workshops covering a variety of topics from setting up a business, how to progress in the sector, the impact of policy and legislation and the drive for equality, conversations around healthcare, especially women’s health, and more. There will also be a wellness pavilion with a variety of treatments from CBD oil massages, a beauty bar, functional mocktails, henna light therapy and more.

“My goal is to continue to create spaces where we can invest in each other and pour that same juice and that same energy back into each other and just let each other flourish,” Roberson explains, looking to the future.

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