By Tasnia Choudhury
This month, Honeysuckle was in the presence of cultural aristocrats at the Williamsburg Hotel for the latest entry in the Business of Cannabis: New York Sessions. Presented by Business of Cannabis with key sponsorship by B Noble and Curaleaf, this evening offered a powerful conversation with hip hop pioneer and cannabis advocate Fab 5 Freddy and Khadijah Tribble, an industry icon now serving as Curaleaf’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility. Let us lay the scene at the Williamsburg on that winter evening as the discussion on social equity in New York legalization unfolds:
Fab 5 Freddy’s New York Cool: Hip Hop Pioneer to Grass Is Greener
The people on stage are modern nobility, personifying the essence of trend, which, contrary to popular belief, is not about what’s relevant but, more importantly, why it is. Fab 5 Freddy is, well, looking fabulous. He wears a ring on each pinky and two necklaces in the shape of the African continent dangling in front of the simple black crew neck silhouette. The words “Black Coffee'' are stenciled across his chest. With a towering figure, white beard, and brimmed hat, he has stature that cuts through the larger-than-life life he’s had and brings him into focus right in front of you. A visual artist and filmmaker in addition to his musical career, Freddy helmed 2019’s viral Netflix documentary Grass Is Greener, which chronicled the history of cannabis culture and the destructive impacts of the War on Drugs. He’s been notoriously described as the “The Coolest [Fucking] Person in New York” by none other than The New Yorker.
Khadijah Tribble: Social Equity Boss
Next to him is Khadijah Tribble, the foremother of social responsibility in the cannabis industry. Her resume is an itemized receipt of companies and communities she’s uplifted with her work. With her current position at Curaleaf, one of the most powerful cannabis operators in the U.S., she ensures active support and education for patients, employees, local environments and all other communities with which Curaleaf interacts. In tandem, she empowers BIPOC cannabis entrepreneurs with Marijuana Matters in Washington, D.C. If diversity, equity and inclusion is the game, then Tribble is Super Bowser in the Mario Bros. series (read final boss).
She opens up the panel with a simple truth, “There really is no reason for this plant to be illegal,” and casts her name in the goblet of restorative justice fire. She helped grant clemency to cannabis prisoners like Corvain Cooper, who had been sentenced to life in prison for the nonviolent drug offense of selling some weed. Tribble is a pioneer of cannabis equity, a TED talker, and leading agent of change in addressing the impact of the War on Drugs. In short, she is the moment. And she is here.
So what brings these two legacies, Fab 5 Freddy and Khadijah Tribble, together? The answer is actually quite simple, it’s a third person: Mr. Bernard Noble.
B Noble: Teaming Up with Curaleaf for Cannabis Justice
The man of the hour who isn’t on stage but whose presence is in between the lines of every conversation, drifting like smoke around us. One of the first cannabis prisoners to draw national attention, in 2010 the Louisiana-based Bernard Noble was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor for carrying two joints’ worth of marijuana. That hard labor, Freddy pointed out, involved picking cotton in the South. Read that again. Now, really read that again. We are all in this room because we have borne witness to this harrowing glimpse into the past too many times. Incarcerated people often belong to the same communities historically disenfranchised (i.e., enslaved, exploited, traumatized, destabilized) by the War on Drugs. Yet, this room tonight, in the audience of the Business of Cannabis panel, down the stairs of the Williamsburg hotel lobby, this room feels like a colosseum where some battles may be won, depending on how loud we cheer.
Noble was released from prison in 2018 after a years-long fight for his freedom. The campaign involved teams of attorneys and high-profile advocates, including billionaire Daniel Loeb, nonprofit organizations such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the Drug Policy Alliance, and mass media attention from Newsweek, VICE, and other sources. Today, he is ready to take his next step to help pay it forward by becoming a force in the cannabis industry.
Curaleaf joined Fab 5 Freddy and Bernard Noble to create B Noble, a one-of-a-kind cannabis brand that will inevitably serve as a blueprint. Officially launched in July 2021, B Noble is a for-profit, cause-based company that sells two joints. Ladies and gentleman, prepare yourselves for this hybrid strain of restorative justice. The brand will generate legal funding for the defense of people wrongfully charged with non-violent cannabis-related crimes.
“We happen to be the first people to have a flower in New York state,” says Freddy proudly. He came across Noble’s “draconian” case while filming his documentary Grass is Greener. (A must-watch for anyone who consumes or cares about cannabis) Traveling to New Orleans, Freddy interviewed Noble’s family and captured his journey to freedom in a new film, B Noble.
Freddy organized a viewing of this film for over 30 state representatives who testified to its impact on their views of cannabis. The film did what their lobbying hasn’t perfected, the art of articulating the gravitas of this issue without losing the very human condition that powers this movement. He trusted Khadijah Tribble with the fight and she has mobilized Curaleaf to broadcast it to 10 states already. B Noble is on shelves across the country.
“We are trying to be the most important cannabis company in the world,” says Tribble regarding Curaleaf’s approach to corporate social responsibility, “because, first of all, we have fire products” and second of all, “we add value to communities.” As Curaleaf grows with the cannabis industry, Tribble hopes to continue with partnerships that empower the very people whose blood, sweat, and tears gave this product a shelf life.
Every aspect of B Noble is rooted in Freddy’s multimedia storytelling. The brand sells two joints because that is the same amount of weed that Bernard Noble was locked up for. They picked July 13 for B Noble to hit the market as poetic justice for the 7 years served of Noble’s 13-year sentence. Freddy wants to tell more stories like Bernard Noble’s through this brand and humbly manifests the kaleidoscopic portal through which social justice will occur. In the middle of the panel, Freddy loses his train of thought, attributes it to weed, lets out an echoing, contagious laughter, and reminds us that he always finds it in the end.