In honor of MLK Jr. day, we spoke to three African American women who are trailblazers in the Michigan cannabis community, to talk about the fascinating paths that brought them to their current careers and their thoughts on entering the cannabis industry. If you didn’t see it, make you sure check out for part one, a profile of former Fox 2 Detroit morning anchor Anqunette Sarfoh and how she transitioned into the cannabis industry!
Christina and Teesha Montague: A Mother-Daughter Team with a Mission
Christina and Teesha Montague have both been very visible as successful women in the Ann Arbor (AA) area for years. Mother Christina was a social worker for the AA public schools before serving as Washtenaw County Commissioner for over a decade, while daughter Teesha has been the long-time events coordinator for AA’s annual African American Downtown Festival. Now they have taken their years of experience and stellar reputations and reapplied them to the cannabis industry, opening Huron View Provisioning Center in southeast AA last year, making Christina the only African American woman to currently own a dispensary in Michigan.
It was their personal experiences with medical cannabis that inspired them to move into the industry. Teesha suffers from scoliosis and has gone 25 years without pain pills due to cannabis, while Christina learned of the benefits through the use of CBD oils. She no longer takes any medications the than cannabis.
Her interest piqued, Teesha traveled to California to study at Oaksterdam University, the US’s first cannabis college, and studied the business of cannabis, horticulture, and the anticipated trends of the next decade. However, it was still a big decision to publicly move into the industry, particularly since the careers of the Montagues have been so visible. There was concern that announcing a move into the medical marijuana market might cause some backlash.
“I was originally worried about that,” Teesha says, “and so we talked to some of the people and some of the ladies that I look up to, and they said, “Hey, this is a business, and also you’re helping people.’ And so I think this has been a huge opportunity to be able help people, but also to let them know, ‘Hey, it’s ok – we do need this, and it’s legal!’
Making Space for Veterans while Carving Out Space for Minorities
Helping people has been a huge driving force behind the Montagues’ plans for Huron View. They have a full-time volunteer coordinator, and a heavy focus on helping veterans. Christina’s background as a social worker provides a unique window into how veterans are suffering, and they have made it a particular mission to help veterans by offering one-on-one and group informational sessions, and by traveling to educate.
“We developed a program called “How to Manage Your Pain,” Teesa says. “We go around to different facilities that service a lot of veterans and give them free information. We’re holding seminars at different locations and people are really excited about it.”
But it’s not all smooth sailing. As both women and African Americans, the Montagues have faced an uphill battle earning a seat at the table. “It’s almost like David and Goliath,” Teesha says. “I think that we are doing so many good things that show we care. So I think that’s the difference between us is, yes, we definitely appreciate profit, but we also want to make a difference. I think that sets us apart.”
“In Michigan, we’re still leaving out the majority of brown and black people,” Christina says. “They’re trying to do some things, but it has gotten much better in Michigan because you have a governor who is aware and who is very supportive. She wants fairness and equity in this business and it’s definitely not that way right now.”
“We have been speaking out very early in this industry,” Teesha adds. “We were some of the first to do it. We’re just trying to help with the questions and they understand there is work to do. As anything, you have vote, you have to create bills and laws and rules, so I think it’s going to take time, but you’re going to see later on that they’re going to understand they they have to even this playing field out. They have to give people opportunities within this community.”