“I’ve been B Noble all my life, but I’ve never loved my name this much.” So says Bernard Noble (AKA B Noble), the man whose eponymous cannabis brand is bringing prison stories to light and encouraging Black entrepreneurs to rise up in the industry.
Watch B Noble and hip hop legend Fab 5 Freddy talk about the B Noble brand and cannabis justice!
B Noble: Cannabis Prisoner To Cannabis Entrepreneur
Noble was arrested in his home state of Louisiana in 2010 for possession of less than two joints’ worth of cannabis, for which he was sentenced to 13 years of hard labor in prison. That hard labor involved such acts as picking cotton – a traumatic reminder that the old horrors of the South have never gone away.
“A lot of Southern states are doing to many a people what Bernard went through,” comments hip hop pioneer and cannabis advocate Fab 5 Freddy. “Every time I tell that story, people are like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know that!’ So we’re raising awareness. But at the same time, it’s incredible to be able to provide high-quality cannabis and inform and educate people. That’s like the best thing ever.”
Fab 5 Freddy, Curaleaf, And The B Noble Cannabis Brand
Fab 5 Freddy heard Noble’s story a few years ago while filming his documentary Grass Is Greener, a comprehensive work chronicling the history of cannabis culture and the destructive nature of the War on Drugs. Deeply affected by Noble’s experiences, Freddy incorporated his tale into Grass Is Greener, but also captured his journey to freedom in another film entitled B Noble. Beyond the films, he foresaw a greater vision – one that would directly benefit communities throughout the nation who had been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.
The result would be the B Noble brand, officially launched in July 2021 through a collaboration with the cannabis industry’s leading multi-state operator Curaleaf. Touted as the first brand to sell adult-use flower in New York State, B Noble’s signature product is a pre-roll pack of two joints, the very same kind as the ones Noble had on him during his arrest. Proceeds from each pack sold help generate legal funding for the defense of people wrongfully charged with cannabis-related crimes and to create resources for people of color to take active roles in the developing sector.
"Curaleaf’s decision to partner with B Noble was rooted in our admiration for Fab 5 Freddy’s activism in cannabis as well as the impact of Bernard’s story. It’s revolutionary for a person with Bernard’s history to lend his story toward the founding of a cannabis brand built on social change. Through our Rooted in Good program, Curaleaf is working to advance social equity within cannabis and provide opportunity to historically disadvantaged communities. This event in particular, in celebration of Juneteenth, is representative of our goals to spark advocacy and movement, uplift the voices of those personally harmed by the War on Drugs, and the ongoing fight for criminal justice reform," said Raheem Uqdah, Director of CSR, Curaleaf.
B Noble Helps Communities Impacted By The War On Drugs
Freddy explains, “A part of the B Noble brand is 10 percent of our earnings we donate to organizations in different states that are doing the work of fixing the harm from the War on Drugs, educating people about how to work [in cannabis], helping people that have been incarcerated get back on their feet and in the community. So that’s the work that we’re going to continue to do. We would like to get these laws adjusted and expunge records of those hundreds of thousands of people that have been criminalized for a plant that has killed no one.”
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 fully embraces his role as a cannabis figurehead, but he admits it takes some getting used to.
“The change is amazing to me,” Noble states. “I never thought I’d be a part of it [but] I’m just honored to be here… It’s just a bigger message than what happened to me.”
Fab 5 Freddy And B Noble On New York's Cannabis And Social Equity Programs
As the B Noble brand celebrates its first anniversary, Freddy and Noble look forward to their progress coinciding with New York State activating its adult-use cannabis programs. Though the state’s Office of Cannabis Management is still refining the regulations for retail, packaging, labeling, marketing, laboratory testing, and negotiating points for topics such as homegrow, the department’s focus continues to be on engaging marginalized communities. The first Adult-Use Conditional Cultivator and Processor licenses have been awarded to those designated as social equity applicants (women, people of color, disabled veterans, and distressed farmers). Meanwhile, the first 100 adult-use retail licenses will be reserved for applicants previously convicted of cannabis charges in the state, or for immediate family members of justice-involved individuals under the same circumstances.
“As of now, New York has the most progressive cannabis legislation in the country,” Freddy notes.
“That’s what’s real hot about New York,” Noble agrees. “I was amazed how I was just able to sit around and smoke cannabis.” He mentions that he recently dislocated his finger when he fell down some stairs trying to avoid being seen with a joint by a police officer, only to remember after the fact that under New York law it’s legal to smoke cannabis anywhere that tobacco smoke is allowed. “In Times Square,” Noble adds, “people were smoking [freely], the police were there. I was amazed to see what was going on, the progress. And I think it should be normal like that. In Louisiana, you would get your fingers chopped off. You cannot sit outside and be free there.”
Freedom and empowerment, ultimately, is at the heart of the B Noble mission. “[We want] social equity for the most victimized,” Freddy asserts. “The way the New York regulations are, to let those people get a shot and step up and get a piece of the pie, that’s what B Noble the brand is all about. We’re representing and we’d like to see a lot more of that across the country.”
The B Noble Brand Celebrates One-Year Anniversary
Through the partnership with Curaleaf, that vision is becoming reality. Khadijah Tribble, Curaleaf’s SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility, has taken B Noble’s brand development under her knowledgeable wing. The industry icon has mobilized Curaleaf to get B Noble to markets in ten states and on various shelves across the country. Meanwhile, Freddy organized a screening of the B Noble documentary for over thirty state representatives, many of whom attested that it changed their views on cannabis policy. Change comes from working the inside and outside simultaneously.
On July 13 (symbolizing the seven years that Noble served of his thirteen-year prison sentence), the B Noble brand will honor its first full year of operation. For Fab 5 Freddy and Bernard Noble, it’s a milestone, but it’s also just a great way to remind the public of all the work that remains to be done.
“Let’s put the karma in full effect like the plant does,” Freddy exhorts, “so that we can fix all this BS that we’ve been living under for 80-plus years. Let’s move on and let’s enjoy this plant together. And come together, and just do the right thing. Right, Bernard?”
With a wide smile, Noble nods his approval and shouts, “Be noble or be gone!”
There’s no greater respect we can put on a name than that.