As communities across the country build equity programs into cannabis law, Oaksterdam Alumni Perry Jones shines as a beacon of success.
Perry has gone through San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program and is well on his way to opening a dispensary in his community.
To bring his business to life, he has partnered with MMD Incorporated, a leader in providing safe, legal cannabis to customers through four retail dispensaries in Los Angeles. Their partnership will bring MMD’s first storefront to Northern California, with Jones as Co-Owner and CEO.
Journey to Equity
Perry Jones was born and raised in San Francisco, where his grandparents relocated from Yazoo County, Mississippi. His grandfather served in the Marines, and Perry recalls that his first exposure to cannabis was through healing ointments his grandmother would make with rubbing alcohol.
Raised in Bernal Dwellings, housing projects that were notoriously rough, Perry says he rose above the fray.
“I stayed in school,” he says. “Education was always something that set me free.”
After graduating from Dewitt Nelson High School, he started working at juvenile hall and taking classes at San Francisco State University toward a degree in criminal justice. That was not to be.
In 2006, Perry was racially profiled leaving the SFSU campus one day. He was pulled over en route to visit his mother, and arrested for possession of three ounces of cannabis. He served six months in county jail, despite the fact that cannabis was legal for medicinal use.
“Perry was arrested, went to jail, and lost his PELL grants and scholarship over three ounces when at that time in California I could go buy an ounce of weed every single day,” Dale says. “The whole thing was as shocking as it gets.”
Still, Perry found a way to turn a negative into a positive.
“I used that time productively and came up with a plan to help legalize,” he says. “It was my blessing in disguise as Restorative Justice.”
That’s when he found out about San Francisco’s Social Equity Program and Oaksterdam University.
Opening a Dispensary
Equity programs strive to right the wrongs of prohibition, which disproportionately affects people of color. In San Francisco, the equity program serves those who graduated from a public high school in the city, and have been truly harmed by the War on Drugs.
Perry fit that bill. He was accepted and received a scholarship to Oaksterdam University, along with one-on-one business coaching through the San Francisco Success Center.
Perry excelled. He was the first applicant to graduate from OU’s Horticulture and Business of Cannabis programs in 2020, and with the help of his coach, Angela White, secured a local license to open a dispensary.
With the support of MMD, he has already purchased a building in the Excelsior Neighborhood where he grew up.
The next step is state licensure. If everything goes well, Perry hopes to open the doors of his retail location and start serving the community by the end of this year.
“It’s definitely a dream come true that I’m able to change the narrative of what cannabis companies look like. If you have a vision, a dream, and the right team you can achieve your goals,” Perry says.
Supporting Equity Applicants
Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones has been by Perry’s side every step of the way. She helped oversee his cannabis classes, attended Perry’s graduation ceremony, and has helped him overcome regulatory hurdles. She says equity applicants need extra support to navigate the red tape it takes to open a cannabis business.
“People like Perry must be included and supported to right the wrongs of failed drug policy,” Jones says. “San Francisco’s Cannabis Social Equity Program is essential in this direction, but only if these businesses can open, operate, and contribute to their communities.”
Sarah Dale agrees, and says MMD is committed to doing its part.
“We need to work together as an industry to have successful equity outcomes. We can talk about equity all day long but we have to make it a priority,” she says. “It’s more than a buzzword, concept, or idea. It’s about rallying together and having tough conversations about how we got here in the first place.”
Big Picture Vision
Perry looks forward to developing a store that honors the local culture, provides jobs in his community, and gives back to neighborhood non-profits, but his plans go beyond the dispensary. He is developing other ventures, including his own cannabis brand called Cali Cotton, and creating a foundation for his daughters, Gabriella, 15, Isis, 11, and Reina, 8.
“What I want to bring forth as a father is building generational wealth, to have my daughters see the challenges I’ve overcome,” he says. “This is one chapter of many more.”