Brad Bogus

Beyond Black History Month: Wanda James & Tahir Johnson - Simply Pure

One cannot speak on social equity, powerful women in cannabis, nor just best dispensary owners in the industry without mentioning Wanda James and Simply Pure.

Wanda is the first Black woman in the world to own a licensed dispensary. There’s not enough space on any blog to give Wanda her dues and list her achievements. Luckily, she’s been profiled EXTENSIVELY online, and a treasure trove of content awaits a quick Google search. 

But, to summarize briefly, here’s a short list of those achievements: 1st Black woman commissioned through the Naval ROTC program, veteran, 2x Fortune 100 executive, campaign manager for Gov. Jared Polis, National Finance Committee appointee by President Obama, and now 1st Black woman elected to the Colorado University Regent board in over 44 years. 

According to Wanda, “things like ‘first’ and ‘only’ just motivate me to want to open up the floodgates.” - Ganjactivist

Wanda’s dispensary, Simply Pure, is a national standard for how a retail cannabis store should operate. Established in 2010 as part of Colorado's medical program, the store has not only survived incredibly turbulent years but expanded into New Jersey under the leadership of CEO Tahir Johnson. 

Simply Pure is proof that carrying a diverse set of products from a diverse set of vendors is a formula for success, as it includes communities not often represented in many cannabis brands. For Black cannabis producers, it is hard to get shelf space in many white-owned dispensaries. At Simply Pure, they’re not just welcomed, they’re wanted. There’s authenticity to this inclusive environment and the community feels it.

Simply Pure often curates special collections of products for Black History Month or Women’s History Month, among other special events, that feature Black or women-owned brands. These special collections not only increase basket size, they truly give the consumer a wonderful experience free of the pain of product discovery (something many cannabis consumers complain about).

Simply Pure’s Expansion into New Jersey

Tahir expects Simply Pure Trenton to be the first Black-owned regulated dispensary to open in the state. After 2 years of preparation and build out, Simply Pure Trenton is “at the 2-yard line” according to Tahir. They should be open sometime in late spring / early summer, 2024.

Tahir has been hustling in the cannabis industry since he first entered it in 2019. He is a Howard University grad and worked in finance before joining the cannabis industry.

Since then, he’s served as a marketing director for a Maryland dispensary, head of DEI at NCIA, director of social equity and inclusion for the US Cannabis Council, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Arcview Capital. Additionally, he has sat on various advisory boards and councils with Excelsior College, Eaze, and MJBiz. Now, he serves as President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and the CEO of Simply Pure Trenton.

Wanda found a great partner in Tahir; the two of them are BUSY racking up credentials and experience that are unparalleled among their peers. They are showing true EXCELLENCE. When we celebrate Black achievements, we’re often celebrating people that have had to work 3X as hard to receive the same recognition and success as their peers.

Wanda and Tahir are both setting a pace of at least 3X! You should follow along, if you can keep up.

Wanda James on LinkedIn

Tahir Johnson on LinkedIn

Simply Pure Denver

Simply Pure Trenton