At age 76, 'Mama Sue' making history as 1st and only Black woman to own Berkeley cannabis dispensary

ByKumasi Aaron and Jason Beal KGO logo
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
At age 76, 'Mama Sue' celebrates bringing cannabis to Bay Area seniors
Sue Taylor also known as "Mama Sue" brings cannabis to seniors as she celebrates her Berkeley-based Black-owned businesses for Black History Month.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News is celebrating Black History Month by sharing the stories of those who are making history right now.

If you ask Sue Taylor how she's feeling, "Oh, I'm incredibly well," said Sue Taylor.

Her mission is to make sure as many people around her age can say the same thing.

"This is what 76 looks like woo hoo!" Taylor said as she spun around.

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It's Black History Month and the city of Oakland is bursting with celebration.

She's doing here, at Farmacy Berkeley, the cannabis dispensary she cofounded, celebrating four years in business.

"This has really been a dream come true. You know, servicing the community servicing seniors," said Taylor.

A former catholic school principal in Oakland, Taylor never imagined she'd be serving seniors like this...until a lifelong friend passed away from cancer.

"And I feel some kind of way in my heart that I didn't serve as a well because my mindset wasn't on cannabis. Because I was secretly afraid of it because of the reefer madness that was instilled in me as I was growing up," said Taylor.

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When Taylor saw the impact cannabis made in the lives of seniors, she pivoted.

She began working with seniors and her family, investing their own money including her entire retirement to open a dispensary.

"It took us eight years. Before we could get that permit. No, no, it was eight years of activist work, like trying to get a building, trying to get in trying to fit in being African Americans and get the door slammed in my face in our face and not wanting to rent buildings to us and all that we went through all those kinds of challenges," said Taylor.

According to the ACLU, Black people are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana, despite roughly equal usage rates.

And Leafly's Jobs Report 2021 found Black people accounted for only 1.2% to 1.7% of business owners in the cannabis industry, despite representing approximately 13% of the population.

"We had to make sure I's were dotted and our T's were crossed because we didn't want to get incarcerated," said Taylor.

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Sue says took 12 years and three outside investors to get to this.

Opening Farmacy Berkeley, making her the first and only Black woman to own a dispensary in the city of Berkeley.

"How do you feel about that about making history in that way?," asked ABC7 Mornings anchor Kumasi Aaron.

"It was quite an honor. To be that representative of because so many African Americans is people of color who were incarcerated for cannabis from the get right from the beginning. It was it was us. And so to have an African American family open up, a dispensary, such as it gave us a lot of pride," said Taylor.

Now Taylor not only has the dispensary but her own line of products for seniors using her nickname, "Mama Sue."

She says a Mama Sue Wellness Center for seniors is next.

"You keep recreating yourself. If you want to live a boring life, keep doing the same thing all your life. Boring," said Taylor.

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I was a Catholic school principal, but now more passion about what I'm doing now. And the sky's the limit. And my 80s is going to be even awesome.

Making history at any age.

Farmacy Berkeley will be celebrating its four-year anniversary on Friday, February 16 with an event for the community. To attend and find out more, click here.

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