A green-hued mural in Seattle displays the energy that Shawn Kemp put into the game of basketball—and signals the start of something new for the six-time NBA All-Star power forward.
On Oct. 30, the “Reign Man,” of Seattle SuperSonics fame, will open Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis, an adult-use dispensary that will work to increase equitable participation in the industry.
Kemp will be joined by former Sonics teammate Gary Payton during the opening-day event, which will include a green ribbon-cutting ceremony. The dispensary, a partnership with Main Street Marijuana co-founders Matt Schoenlein and Ramsey Hamide, is the first in a planned line of stores.
Earlier this week, Cannabis Dispensary spoke with Kemp about the new store’s reminiscence of when Seattle had an NBA team, the importance of social equity in the cannabis industry and some of the wariness that athletes and entertainers still have about the plant.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length, style and clarity.
Patrick Williams: What got you interested in cannabis?
Shawn Kemp: I’ve been a fan of the cannabis business for a long time, even before it was legal, but just always having the dreams and hopes of opening up a shop one of these days after it became legal. It was always in the back of my mind, I guess, but obviously, with cannabis shops and getting into this business, it’s about the team that you create. So, I always had a problem creating a good team, having good people around me. Really here in the last year or so, I just was able to meet some people that I really trusted, and then we started to talk and develop some relations, and we were able to create the cannabis store.
PW: How did you link up with Main Street Marijuana?
SK: I’ve just been a fan of theirs through what they’ve done through the state, and then having some mutual friends that knew one of the workers inside Main Street gave me the introduction to them. And then things took off from there, definitely.
PW: I read that you have a 10% stake in this?
SK: No, not at all. When I got into this cannabis business, I got into it with these guys just to create opportunity for other people, not just Blacks but anybody, Asians, whites—this is such a white-branded business, so I just wanted the opportunity for different cultures to be into the store. So, this is the first of four stores is the way that it works. It’s the first of five stores. And we’re going to four more stores in the next two years.
PW: In Seattle or across Washington?
SK: Across Washington.
(Editor’s note: Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis recently released a statement that stated that the first Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis store is a structured deal. Main Street Marijuana, it reads, “invested in creating a store that can serve as a social equity incubator, to train people of color and women to become successful cannabis store owners.”)
PW: Is Gary Payton an owner, as well, or is he just coming out to hang out on Friday?
SK: No, he’s not an owner, but he’s going to be here for the opening-day event. He’s actually also promoting his Gary Payton strain. So, Gary’s also in the business. He’ll be here promoting his own product, and he’ll just be here in our shop for the opening day.
PW: Do you have any Shawn Kemp- or Sonics-branded strains or products?
SK: No, I’m really just educating myself on the business before I come out with any product or anything. I actually just want to educate myself, top to bottom, on everything. Then, eventually, I think you’ll see some Shawn Kemp, some Reign Man products. But for now, I’m just a shop owner, just trying to build a good team. But I think eventually, absolutely, we’d like to create some type of strain and some products.
PW: With the store and the mural, would you say that your big public-facing space in Seattle, if locals or tourists are looking to relive that era of the SuperSonics and the NBA, is that where they go?
SK: Absolutely. Actually, that’s why I created this, absolutely, simply because we have no basketball team here. We’re in hopes of getting a basketball team in the future. If we do get a basketball team in the future, I’m sure it’s going to be right down the street from this shop. So, I’m in hopes of thinking that one of these days, in the next three to four years, that we’re going to receive an NBA team back in Seattle. And we’re hoping to be part of it.
PW: Do you have a lot of memorabilia or other nods to the Sonics in the store?
SK: Yeah, I do, I do. I saved memorabilia throughout the years, a lot of pictures, posters and jerseys, and we’ve definitely hung them up throughout the shop.
PW: You’re doing a green ribbon-cutting ceremony. Is that a reference to the Sonics, cannabis or both?
SK: It’s representing cannabis culture. It’s a green ribbon, and it’s my first ribbon-cutting ceremony, so I’m looking forward to having some fun with it out front, and we invited everybody from the city down, also.
PW: Could you talk about the importance of having Black-owned businesses in the space? I saw that you’re one of the first in the city.
SK: To me, it’s not just about being Black-owned, but it’s about being just multi-colored-owned and then inviting different cultures in here. When I walk by here, what makes me fool good is that we have different cultures here—we have Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians–that’s what makes me smile. I don’t want a shop where it’s just all Black. I want mixed cultures up in here. So, that’s what we’re after.
PW: Do you feel like athletes and celebrities could play a larger role in destigmatizing and legitimizing cannabis?
SK: I do. I think if they speak up as I have, things could make it easier. But also, I think there’s a backlash to that because in some places, it’s still illegal. So, I think there are still people very, very afraid to speak up on cannabis. I feel fortunate and blessed that I can come out and say it, but I’m not going to pressure any more athletes or entertainers to come out and say anything. But if they do, I’m definitely going to stand with them.
PW: What else would you want the industry to know about this business and your entering the space?
SK: Just the fact that cannabis and weed has been known as kind of dirty for a long time. My way is just to come into this business. You’re not going to probably see me on poster boards or videos smoking joints like Snoop Dogg or anything, but I think with me coming into this business, it’s just a way of bringing more of a professional touch to it, letting people know that cannabis is OK, there’s a professional way of using it. You don’t have to always be so vocal, so loud or whatever, but it’s okay to [do] whatever you do in your own privacy.