Hard-won lessons from Posh Green Cannabis Boutique’s Reese Benton

Published on February 24, 2023
(Ali Jafri for Leafly)
(Ali Jafri for Leafly)

Reese Benton opened the Posh Green Cannabis Boutique in San Francisco in 2020, solidifying her place in history as the first Black woman and first social equity recipient to become the sole owner of a cannabis retail store anywhere. It only got harder from there: COVID, a lawsuit, security issues, federal prohibition taxes, and more. The 46-year-old cosmetology, fashion, and retail maven from SF talks cannabis launches, non-conformity, dealing with haters, and the future—as part of Leafly’s Black voices series, Lumen. We edited the interview down into some distilled wisdom, borrowing the idea from Esquire magazine’s interview series “What I’ve Learned.”

(Courtesy @queenreeseb)
(Courtesy @queenreeseb)

I’m a hybrid-indica girl, I do not care for sativa. Women are sativa users, they like the smell. They’re more citrusy, more floral. I need a gas candy. Plus, I’m too hype already. I talk too much, I’m too excited. But I have really got to be a connoisseur over the years, especially being an Emerald Cup flower judge. That will put you on your game. 

I’ve come out with my first full flower flight—a Compound Genetics collaboration on pre-rolls of Glitter Bomb, Red Bullz, and Gastro Pop. Just like when you go get a bourbon or whiskey flight—so I’m excited. I want to be innovative. 

These Chads that run the world don’t think nothing of nobody – I don’t care what nationality you are, if you’re a woman they don’t think you’re smart enough. So you just have to show them better than you can tell them. 

On non-conformity…

(Courtesy @poshgreencannabisbtq)
(Courtesy @poshgreencannabisbtq)

Because so many people have to be somebody else to get where they’re going, a lot of people want you to conform to everybody else. I refuse to be that way. 

I was in high school [when I first smoked]. I didn’t like weed. All my friends smoked weed, I used to be like, “Stop smoking so much!” I was that girl.

When I moved to Charlotte, NC in 2006 my dad kept saying, “Get caught on the wrong bridge, your ass ain’t going to come back. They going to lynch you!” I started having anxiety with driving, getting lost in Charlotte.  So then I had to find the weed man in the place where it wasn’t legal.

I just walk in the room as me. I’m not ever desperate. If the deal’s supposed to go through, it’s supposed to go through. And if not, I don’t press it because I don’t ever want to be involved in the wrong situation. That’s why a lot of people are closing down now: the wrong partnerships.

On San Francisco business…

Mango Fruz. Hybrid sativa. (David Downs/Leafly)
On sale at Posh Green Cannabis Boutique: Mango Fruz smalls. Hybrid sativa. (David Downs/Leafly)

When I first envisioned this project, I knew stores were hitting 800-900 customers, a thousand patients a day. We’re not even doing 1% of that. We didn’t get to do [a grand opening] for nine months because of Covid. We couldn’t do demos [which] brought a lot of awareness to other dispensaries. It really put a damper on the growth of the company, especially when we got shut down from an injunction from the people in the building.

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I’m hearing people are not even making enough to pay the security at their places, so it’s not just me struggling. After Covid, I know a few people that closed – at least eight to nine dispensaries.

San Francisco Hunters Point Shipyard During Sunset. (Shutterstock)

A lot of people are scared to come over here. I was like, ‘I ain’t scared. It’s going to be the best real estate in San Francisco in the next couple of years.’

Bayview and Hunter’s Point—this is the last area where all the Black people are. I think we’re under 2% now in population here. The only person that owns a business here is Bob. He’s been there for 50 years and has a liquor store. He’s the first. 

On handling other people…

People that look like me have not been the biggest supporters either because it’s a “crabs in a bucket” mentality. When you come from a place where you don’t see us, and you see maybe one of us in the whole building or one person in power, you think there’s only one position when there’s plenty of positions. 

Do I get along with everybody? Nah. I ain’t gotta like you. I’m going to respect you. And if we need to step together on a cause for it to get done, I’m totally down. Then we don’t have to talk after that.

I hear everything people say about me. But I’ll still smile and act like I don’t, because guess what? I ain’t going nowhere.

Lumen: Black voices in cannabis

On her purpose in life…

Every time I want to give up, someone’s in my inbox or telling me how I inspired them. And it’s not just cannabis – people inspired in general to be independent and live out their dreams.

Every time I reach a goal, I go for another goal. [To] step away to see me, what I have done, what I have accomplished, which people I have inspired – hopefully one day, I can see the greatness.

I do stuff like the Covid task force, I was appointed to that. I was the only cannabis [professional], the first woman of color with all these big-name people. In 2019, I was asked to speak at Stanford and that was amazing because everyone had all these initials behind their name.

I’m doing what I feel and what my purpose is in this industry and on this earth. This is something that was brought to me by the universe, something that I fought for—for the equity [program], for the people.”

The community supports us. We get older people, younger people, doctors, lawyers, IT, all walks of life. People make it a point—especially African-American people, or people that look up dispensaries that are Black-owned that come from different states, or that are woke—they come and support. 

It’s a little joke: We know who’s gone to Posh by the blue bag. [Customers are] like, ‘When I come home, my wife’s like, ‘You went to Tiffany’s?’ ‘No, I went to the Tiffany’s of cannabis. Don’t get excited.’

On the future …

Illustrations of the completed India Basin project behind Posh Green. (Trust for Public Land)

It’s bigger than me, so that’s what keeps me going. Also, this is all I have. If this does not work out, I have no savings. This is it. 

If they give us that [federal tax code] 280-E [reform], we gonna finally be able to see some success stories. I don’t give a fuck if they don’t do the [legal cannabis] banking, just give me the 280-E. I’ll make my own bank.

Charting Harlem’s long history as a hotbed for cannabis culture

I know once they build this park behind us—the most expensive park in the city—that we’re going to have so many customers. It’s going to be nice to be the waterfront dispensary that I dreamed of, actually at the pier—Pier 90. It’ll be completed by 2025.

Hopefully, some franchising [is in the future], doing more products. [Outside Lands Festival] Grasslands, we’ll be there again this year. [My ultimate goal is] to be a philanthropist and a billionaire. I want Amazon to buy my license—Posh Green powered by Amazon.

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Kaisha-Dyan McMillan
Kaisha-Dyan McMillan
Kaisha-Dyan McMillan has been writing for and about the cannabis industry since 2016, and has written multiple articles centering the stories of BIPOC and social equity entrepreneurs in the industry. She currently serves as the Senior Content Manager for cannabis production platform AROYA and co-moderator of the crop steering and cultivation podcast, Office Hours. IG: @ahsiak
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