Urban Soyal opens as County’s first Black-owned cannabis retail store

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Urban Soyal opens as County's first Black-owned cannabis retail store
The staff at Urban Soyal. (Photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

Contra Costa County’s first Black-owned cannabis store recently opened.

Urban Soyal is located at 3823 San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante and currently serves medical customers, although its owners are pursuing a County license to serve to adult recreational customers.

Urban Soyal is owned by Richmond natives Dr. Ayoka Nurse and Khalil Ferguson. Dr. Nurse, a social policy analyst for over 25 years, was chair of Richmond’s cannabis sub-committee. She and Ferguson, whose background is in law and community activism, see firsthand the barriers that Black Americans face when trying to enter the cannabis industry. This comes after a failed war on drugs that disproportionately affected marginalized communities, particularly Black Americans, she said.

“Our decision to enter the cannabis industry was not just about profit but about rectifying the injustices perpetrated by past policies,” Dr. Nurse said. “Despite the legalization of cannabis in California, many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods still bear the brunt of this legacy.”

At the same time, opportunities for ownership and employment in the industry remain elusive, she said. Black ownership in the industry fell to less than 4 percent since 2019.

“Becoming the first Black-owned cannabis shop in our County wasn’t just a milestone; it was a call to action,” Dr. Nurse said. “It’s a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to ensure equity and diversity in this burgeoning industry. We don’t celebrate this achievement; we see it as a catalyst for change.”

Above all, Urban Soyal is committed to providing quality products and creating employment opportunities for those who need them most.

Unfortunately, Dr. Nurse said the dispensary is facing “bureaucratic hurdles” en route to qualifying for a limited number of licenses to serve to adults for recreational use in addition to medicinal use.

“But we remain undeterred,” said Dr. Nurse. “Our track record speaks for itself. We are professionals dedicated to our craft, rooted in our community, and committed to promoting equity and diversity in the cannabis industry. It’s time for Contra Costa County to recognize the importance of adult-use status, not just for us but for advancing social justice and economic empowerment.”

Learn more at www.Urbansoyal.com.