“There’s no one else who looks like me and walks into the room as a virtual unknown who is late to cannabis.”
Pure Oasis, the first recreational dispensary in Boston and the state’s first such cannabis operation that is minority-owned, is bound to hit a lot of milestones and make big headlines. The best part is they don’t need gimmicks to pull it off. As the experience of general manager Meaka Brown as described in our interview with her shows, the shop has enough talent and potential under its own roof to push through the pandemic.
What’s your cannabis coming of age story?
I started off in the music industry, my husband is [Boston hip-hop super producer] Nelly Protools. We started a studio in ’99, I studied music business and sound engineering, then went to work at Soundmirror [in Jamaica Plain]. Then I had two kids and I was home for a little bit. Then I went to work with my dad in the family business—we’re all constables—up until last year.
I also started an all-natural body butter company like three years ago, and I began to study herbalism so I could really understand what it was that I was doing. My classes were in Brooklyn, so I started commuting once a week, and I fell in love with cannabis.
Simultaneously, my sister-in-law passed away from malnutrition from complications due to cervical cancer. She couldn’t eat. We were trying to get her some cannabis, and her medical card came after she died. It changed our whole views and opinions about cannabis, that there is some value to it. In [the music] industry, everyone smokes, and Nelly and I didn’t. We just didn’t consume, so that kind of propelled my journey and interest.
How did the products come about?
Then I decided to mix my products with CBD and cannabis and I developed a topical that helped my grandmother get rid of her arthritis pain. And it worked. I took everything I learned about herbs and tweaked it with the knowledge I got about cannabis and just kept on refining and refining and refining. And so now I have a legion of old ladies.
But that’s different from making it your full-time professional life …
I realized that being a constable and an herbalist were two things that couldn’t go together, so I told my dad that I had to pursue this. I didn’t want to one day be 50 years old and regret it. [Two days later], I was hired at Pure Oasis.
I was hired just to be a packager in the packaging department. I was going from working 80 or 90 hours a week to just working a regular job. … So I come here, I start two weeks prior to opening, I’m still commuting to New York [for some classes], and then COVID happens, and then the looting happens [Pure Oasis was broken into in June]. It was chaos, and I’m still showing up every day, and now I’m the general manager.
What they were looking for is someone who could lead, which I had done running a world-class recording facility. And running an eviction is not easy [as a constable]. So that just gave me a whole breadth of skills that I didn’t even know I had. And I put myself through college doing retail, so I know how to do that. The only thing I was lacking was direct cannabis knowledge, and I learned it.
How long have you been in the position? What are your duties?
I’ve been in as the interim general manager since the beginning of July. My duties range from admin to compliance to reporting—all of it. I really appreciate [Pure Oasis co-owners] Kobe [Evans] and Kevin [Hart] dropping me here. They saw my potential and saw my resume and said, She has all the skills, and whatever she doesn’t have, we’ll get it for her.
I’m sure you’re not sitting around just patting yourself on the back for being the first Black woman to manage a dispensary in Mass, but it’s nonetheless a major feat. Is everything you do to make sure doors are open for others coming up in the business a job of its own in addition to everything else you are doing?
It’s its own thing. I was proud to say, when I took this position, that it was going to be like, Oh look, here she comes. For me it was about the responsibility to make sure I don’t just sit here and hold space, and that I make space for everyone else.
There’s no one like me in this industry east of the Mississippi, other than [former Suffolk County Sheriff, Mass Sec. of Public Safety, and MassGrow/AscendMass CEO] Andrea Cabral. There’s no one else who looks like me and walks into the room as a virtual unknown who is late to cannabis, but when I get passionate about something, I go from zero to five-thousand. I’ve lived an incredible life, and I feel that everything I’ve done has prepared me for what I am doing right now.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.