Chicago rapper Vic Mensa is jumping into the cannabis game with the launch of his equity-focused cannabis brand, 93 Boyz. It’s the first Black-owned cannabis brand in Illinois, he said.

“I feel phenomenal to be able to be the first Black-owned cannabis brand operating in the state of Illinois,” Mensa told The TRiiBE. “At the same time, I recognize that excitement comes with much more work to do culturally. I feel the excitement.” 

“Our intention for this launch and the launch event that we’re doing is to bring a new flavor to what is a pretty dry cannabis industry in Illinois, and bring a different element to the game that doesn’t currently exist,” Mensa said.

Since April 2022, a limited supply of 93 Boyz cannabis products has been available on the shelves at Chicago dispensaries such as Dispensary33, which has locations in the West Loop and Andersonville; and Mission Dispensaries, which has locations in South Chicago and Calumet City, Ill. It’s the only dispensary on the South Side.

Beginning this month, the 93 Boyz brand will expand, offering its products in more dispensaries statewide, Mensa said. 93 Boyz product line currently includes premium flower eighths, premium pre-roll and strain-specific vape cartridges. The brand encompasses various options from sativa to indica to custom hybrid blends.

93 Boyz pre-roll. Photo provided.

Through 93 Boyz, Mensa intends to bring new flavor to the cannabis industry in Illinois, which he says currently lacks diversity. At the heart of 93 Boyz’ mission is reinvestment in communities and people that have been historically and disproportionately impacted by laws, prejudices, and assumptions around cannabis consumption, according to a written release. 93 Boyz launched in 2022 in collaboration with Mensa’s nonprofit SaveMoneySaveLife. 

Mensa’s interest in cannabis dates back to his childhood. 

“I got interested in weed when I was 11 years old, and I started selling weed around the time I was 12 years old. I started taking this seriously when I was 15. So selling weed was my first hustle,” Mensa explained. “In high school, if you ask anybody at Whitney Young or in my general vicinity, it was me and [rapper] Joey Purp. We was the weed man.”

To develop and launch 93 Boyz, Mensa partnered up with Aerīz, a worldwide cultivator. Through brand licensing, cannabis brands can work alongside cultivators outside of their home states. Mensa said it’s a model other cannabis brands follow.

“Our brand was launched through licensing with a cultivator, which is a model that we’re going to use in different states and that, in this industry, is a model that many brands follow,” Mensa explained. “Many people create a brand license that brand intellectual property through different cultivators in different states.”

Aerīz is one of the largest aeroponic cannabis cultivators and it provides sustainable and environmentally friendly sustainable and environmentally friendly products. According to an online description from Leafly, aeroponics is “a method of growing marijuana process in which roots are suspended in the air within a chamber and sprayed with water.” 

Mensa said the cannabis industry must have an element of reparations, and that’s why social equity is a part of the ethos of 93 Boyz. 

“I recognize the effects of the War on Drugs on our community, on my life, on your life, on our family’s lives is so immense,” Mensa said. “It’s outrageous that we can have countless unquantifiable losses inflicted upon us through the criminalization of this plant, and then the legalization happens, and not only are we left out of the industry, but the massive profits being made don’t do anything to address the harm done.”

In 2021, the state brought in $1.38 billion in cannabis sales. In July 2022, Illinois’ monthly cannabis sales reached $135 million. July’s sales were the largest for 2022, but that’s about $2 million shy of cannabis sales for the month of December 2021. 

Mensa began to develop 93 Boyz in 2019, just as the state of Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis in June that year. The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

“As soon as the industry turned and recreational became the name of the game, I was raising my hand, like, ‘I want it in.’ I started working on it and figuring it out from different angles. So at that time, I was trying to get dispensary and cultivation licenses,” Mensa said. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic and numerous lawsuits plagued the rollout of the state’s cannabis licensing process in 2020. 

In July 2022, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) issued the second wave of dispensary licenses, bringing the total number of issued licenses from 149 to 177. Eight remaining licenses need to be issued.  

According to the IDFPR, of the businesses selected for cannabis dispensary licenses, 41 percent are majority Black-owned, seven percent are majority white-owned and four percent are majority Latino-owned. Of the 177 awardees, 38 percent did not disclose the race of their owners. All of the businesses qualify as social equity applicants. 

Awardees have 180 days from July 29, 2022 to get their dispensaries open and up to code. 

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In 2019, Mensa applied as a social equity applicant for dispensary and cultivation licenses but was not awarded either of the licenses. Today, he is still in litigation to acquire a cultivation license with the state. 

At this time, there are five types of licenses: cultivation centers, craft growers, processors,  transporting organizations and dispensing organizations, according to the IDFPR

“The entire licensing process has been just rife with corruption and deception,” Mensa said. 

Mensa still has his eyes set on having a storefront for 93 Boyz in the future. He would need a cannabis dispensary license in order to open a storefront. Until then, his focus is on creating a buzz and awareness around the 93 Boyz brand. One way he hopes to do that is through community initiatives. 

One of those initiatives, called Books Before Bars, will include using a portion of the company’s profits to buy books to distribute to incarcerated people in Illinois jails and prisons. 93 Boyz will partner with the Black-owned and Black women-led Semicolon Bookstore in Wicker Park for the initiative. 

Mensa said they’ve already begun to purchase books for the initiative that were influential to him. One of the books on the list is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 

“We’ve purchased quite a few different titles that have been influential to me and have been impactful when I’ve sent them to incarcerated friends,” Mensa said.

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.