Ice T — the Grammy-winning gangsta rapper, Image-award winning actor, reality TV star, and producer — can now add “dispensary owner” to his list of accomplishments. The notoriously strict New Jersey cannabis control board has awarded Ice T and his longtime friend, cannabis entrepreneur and Playboy Playmate Charis B, a license to open a 5,000 square foot dispensary in Jersey City. It’ll be one of over a dozen dispensaries that have opened since New Jersey legalized cannabis sales in April, and one of the only dispensaries owned by a rapper in the nation. So what’s the story with this new dispensary? What connection does the co-star of such films as Johnny Mnemonic and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo have to the Garden State? And how will this new dispensary help the local community?

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Ice T: Rapper, Actor, New Jersey Native

Ice T, (real name Tracy Lauren Marrow), is a New Jersey native who was born and raised in Newark. Starting as an underground rapper in the 1980s, he gained critical and commercial success with his 1990’s gangsta rap albums Original Gangster and Body Count, featuring the hit song “Cop Killer.” He later moved into acting, playing a police detective in New Jack City, and a half-kangaroo man in Tank Girl. He would later go on to co-star in the TV show Law and Order: SVU for over two decades. Although Ice T owns a home in Edgewater, he chose Jersey City for his dispensary for several reasons. Not only is Jersey City just across the bridge from Manhattan, but Ice T genuinely loves the city, and is there “every night.”

Rapper Ice T, wearing a black t-shirt and silver chain, is singing into a microphone while performing at a concert Ice T is a rapper and actor, having played multiple roles in TV shows and movies. photo credit

As Ice T said in a press release "I've dedicated my life and career to giving back and paving the way for minorities. As a New Jersey native, I'm excited for the opportunity legalization offers our community, and I look forward to ushering in a new era for cannabis in the state."

Rappers Opening Dispensaries

Ice T is not alone in using his wealth and influence to open a dispensary. Rappers turned cannabis entrepreneurs like Cypress Hill’s B Real and The Game have both opened their own dispensaries, helping to make a dent in a primarily white-owned industry. Unlike those two rappers, Ice T has said he does not use cannabis, despite what this scene from Leprechaun II: Leprechaun in the Hood would have you believe. Obviously though, he sees no problem with it. But how can someone who doesn’t smoke weed run a weed business? The answer is that he’s not opening the dispensary alone. Ice T noted, “I’ve partnered with my friend of over 25 years, Charis B who is an authority in cannabis and founder of [California-based dispensary] The Medicine Woman to ensure a premium experience for our customers and community."

The Medicine Woman

Charis B(urrett) is a businesswoman and model who was Playboy Magazine’s Miss February in 2003 and co-host of Playboy Radio. Besides co-owning Silver Star clothing company, she founded the original The Medicine Woman dispensary in California in 2015 with her husband Luke. The dispensary was originally a non-profit delivery service, which offered more than 300 products to their patient network. 

a dispensary storefront with a lit-up sign that reads “MARIJUANA,” in a brick building Charis Burett opened The Medicine Woman dispensary in California and they’ll be bringing it to New Jersey. photo credit

The dispensary was a success, and currently offers more than 1,000 products. They’ve also launched their own private label product line with multiple collections. So they set their sights on the east coast. As Charis B said in an interview  “It’s super, super exciting for us because New Jersey is many years behind where we are in California in terms of legalization…And it’s exciting to bring it to a state that is really [motivated] and looking forward to the growth of the cannabis industry in general in their state.” 

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The New Dispensary Will Give Back to the Local Community

The founders are of course hoping that the New Jersey dispensary will be a lucrative investment. As Ice T told the cannabis board “My brand is honesty, nobody starts a business thinking about social impact, they start a business because it’s lucrative, that’s why…But it’s lucrative enough to give back. It’s lucrative enough that you should want to help the community in all those things.” And Charis B and Ice T are committed to giving back to the community.

In their press release, The Medicine Woman Jersey City expressed a commitment to hiring from within the local Jersey City community with a special eye towards providing opportunities for former cannabis offenders. The Medicine Woman Jersey City has already partnered with both local and national charitable organizations. These include organizations such as Jersey City Employment and Training Program, The Last Prisoner Project, Hudson County Community College, and the Jersey City Mural and Arts Program. 

These are welcome steps from a Black and Female-owned business in the state. The New Jersey Cannabis Control Board has included a focus on social equity, but the fact remains that more concrete steps must be pursued to undo the damage of racist police and judicial practices in minority communities. 

a hand holding out a plastic baggie with cannabis buds, next to another person with their wrists in handcuffs behind their back The Medicine Woman New Jersey has a focus on local communities and helping those with prior cannabis offenses. photo credit

Those convicted of cannabis crimes will not be barred from working in the industry, and there is a social equity tax on every cannabis purchase, but racist policing practices persist. Even in 2020, Black New Jersey residents were nearly 3.5 times as likely to be arrested for possession as their White counterparts, despite consuming cannabis at the same rate. The impacts of these arrests, financial and social, compound the issues already faced in minority communities damaged by the drug war, redlining, and other legacies of racist social policies. 

Ice T’s Dispensary Opening Soon

The Medicine Woman’s Jersey City location is expected to open this fall. The dispensary will be located on Tonnelle Avenue. According to a press release, it will showcase the "best of New Jersey cannabis brands, limited edition merch, education, and inspiration." They are currently accepting applications for employment in a number of positions. So if you live in Jersey City and want to work for a dispensary co-owned by gangsta rap legend and former reality show star of Ice Loves Coco, get your resume on point.

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