Photo: Darius Evans
The Hemp Neighborhood Store co-founders (l to r): Rashad Davis, Evarra Evans and Darius Evans. Photo: Darius Evans

Real estate entrepreneur Rashad Davis’ newest venture on Charlotte’s West Side has less in common with commercial properties and more with the pain-relieving properties of cannabidiol (CBD).

Along with educator Evarra Evans and her husband, Marine Corps veteran Darius Evans, Davis launched The Hemp Neighborhood Store in late fall. They’re dispelling the stigma around CBD in communities of color through information and access to wellness products.

The rapidly growing market for CBD and hemp products has been very profitable in Charlotte, with retail locations sprouting up across the city. But the so-called green rush has delivered few gains for minority business owners. Davis believes, in part, to over-policing of Black neighborhoods.

“It’s been so criminalized in our community,” he said. “Where we live, off Beatties Ford Road, people think of both CBD and marijuana as illegal and many don’t understand the health benefits of CBD.”

Evans agreed.

“People are afraid to go out there and have conversations that need to be had to know the difference between the two. Because [CBD] is beneficial for arthritis, has anti-inflammatory properties and it helps calm issues in the nervous system, from seizures to fibromyalgia,” he added.

Evans says they want to be in areas where CBD isn’t catering to people of color.

Products range from flower pre-rolls to lip balm to body lotion. Photo: Darius Evans

Davis grew up working his grandfather’s land in Florida, and his specialization in market intelligence put CBD on his radar some years ago.

He joined forces with the Evans, who had been working and researching in the CBD field since 2014. The couple started off looking for solutions to help with her anxiety and to temper his PTSD. CBD worked best for them.

“We got hard down into research, looking at case studies and sources to make sure we got the right information. We were getting more knowledgeable and decided to start making our own products,” Darius said. He and his wife created Sugar Sweets, individual sticks of local honey with CBD.

Marijuana leaves users feeling fuzzy because of its high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, but it also has CBD in lower doses. CBD yields many of the same calming effects and “body buzz” of marijuana, with one important difference.

“A lot of people like to smoke but don’t like the total effects, feeling stuck or having a diminished brain function,” Darius said. “With CBD you get all the benefits without the high part.”

Rashad Davis with a customer during the Hemp Neighborhood Store Pop-Up at BLKMRKT on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo: Darius Evans

The Hemp Neighborhood Store hosts pop-up sales as well as free monthly informational events under the auspice of their Hemp Neighborhood Information Center.

This fall, they debuted at Camp North End’s BLKMRKT arts incubator and Bushfest — a popular local music festival — cultivating a friendly and knowledgeable online and mobile presence. As yet, there are no plans for a permanent physical store.

“Research shows people like the idea of CBD but when they think of CBD stores, they’re still not sold for a variety of reasons,” Davis said. “This mobile model allows us to be out in front of the consumer so they can experience our service in person, then go to our website and order whatever they want. People like to have fun in the privacy of their own home.”

Current products at The Hemp Neighborhood Store include body bars, lip balms and lotions for hair and skin; a selection of loose and pre-rolled CBD flowers; and CBD tinctures treating everything from sleep difficulty to joint pain in dogs and cats.

Teachers, seniors and veterans get a standing discount on orders, and Davis said the company is developing a monthly subscription membership so people can experience a wider variety of products in small doses.

Their best-seller is Sunset Road Sherbet, a premium sativa flower with 19% CBD.

“I technically don’t live off Sunset, but that’s my favorite strain because it’s definitely on the West Side and it gives a nice, calming effect,” Davis said.

In October, West Charlotte resident Mariah Scott perused the booth at the Bushfest music festival. Scott said she’d been curious about CBD since the summer and had tried an edible on a trip to Asheville.

“I was kind of second-guessing or curious if it really worked, but when I tried [Hemp Neighborhood Store products] I realized okay, this has a nice little vibe. I’m into both CBD and THC but the difference is the weight of it. If you’re not looking to be weighted down, CBD is a lighter route,” she said.

She’s adamant about Black investment and ownership on the West Side and is glad to see more businesses like The Hemp Neighborhood Store opening up. “Now, the West side has everything I want and need,” she said.

For details on the next Hemp Neighborhood Store pop-up, follow them on Instagram or visit thehempneighborhood.com.

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Emiene is an avid storyteller, journalist and editor creating content on print and digital platforms. She has been published in the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine, North Carolina’s Our State magazine, and...