LA’s New Black-Woman-Owned Dispensary Is an Ode to Harlem Renaissance Speakeasies

Josephine & Billie’s opens in South LA with a focus on community and education for women of color.

ceo & coo
Photo courtesy of Josephine & Billie’s
Photo courtesy of Josephine & Billie’s

A new take on dispensaries has arrived in South LA with the debut of Josephine & Billie’s. Founded by CEO Whitney Beatty and COO Ebony Andersen, the cannabis club is modeled after speakeasy-style “tea pads” that were popular among Black artists during the Harlem Renaissance and seeks to create a safe space for women of color who have been historically neglected by the industry.

“We wanted to create a space for women of color to explore cannabis in a real way,” Beatty explains. “We know that women are more stress-prone than men, and that women of color face more anxiety and stress than white women, but what we have not talked about is how cannabis can really help with that.”

The mission of Josephine & Billie’s is to not only educate women of color and their allies about responsible cannabis consumption and its potential healing benefits, but to do so in a familiar environment that speaks to their cultures and communities.

As Andersen says, “Whitney and I have picked out every single element of this space. It has a lot of nostalgic moments, things that we identify with and things that you can find in our houses and our grandmother's houses. There's a specific energy here that you can't find in a ‘normal’ dispensary because it's not authentic to them.”

Photo courtesy of Josephine & Billie’s

Upon stepping inside Josephine & Billie’s, customers are greeted by an art deco paradise, with ornate black and gold wallpaper, hanging bulbs, plush velvet lounge seating, and an illuminated "Josephine & Billie's" sign that hangs on a sleek navy wall. Products are displayed on tables, in refrigerator cases, and in arched glass cabinets to encourage leisurely browsing while jazz music croons in the background. Budtenders are swapped for advocates who embody speakeasy-inspired characters and are ready to answer any questions or make recommendations. And just like the tea pads of the Roaring ‘20s that created safe spaces for artists to relax and mingle, guests at Josephine & Billie’s are also encouraged to linger in the space. The tea pad plans to host educational courses and community events in the future.

The dispensary name pays homage to Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday, two iconic Black entertainers who were persecuted for their cannabis consumption. As Beatty explains, “I think it's important that, as we have legalization, we honor these women of color who paid the price for their cannabis consumption and still used their art to fight against injustice. They rejected the mainstream and wrote their own rules, all while holding the door open for other women that would come after them. For us, that’s goals AF—that's what we want to be able to do.”

Photo courtesy of Josephine & Billie’s

Josephine & Billie’s is the second Black-woman-owned dispensary in LA and the first with a specific focus on women of color. This commitment is reflected in the brands they stock and you’ll find big names like Kiva Confections, CANN, Ball Family Farms, and Jay-Z’s Monogram sharing space with smaller labels like Agua de Flor, Drew Martin, and Cosmic View, plus proprietary Josephine and Billie cannabis strains available in prerolls. As Beatty points out, “We have prioritized putting Black-owned, Latino-owned, women-led, and LGBTQ-led brands on our shelves because it’s important that we’re part of an inclusive supply chain.”

Josephine & Billie’s has been a labor of love for Beatty and Andersen, who received the first official investment from The Parent Company's social equity corporate venture fund, which elevates future entrepreneurs of color within the cannabis industry by providing them with the capital and mentorship necessary to build generational wealth, as part of a more equitable and diverse cannabis industry. The Parent Company manages the fund in partnership with an advisory committee led by Chief Visionary Officer, Jay-Z and Chief Social Equity Officer, Desiree Perez.

While their focus on women of color makes them pioneers in the industry, Beatty and Andersen hope to see more dispensaries with similar missions soon. As Beatty shares, “My deepest desire is that it won’t be this hard for the women who come after us.”

Josephine & Billie's is located at 1535 W. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. and is open from 11 am–7 pm daily.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles editor at Thrillist.