You probably aren’t familiar with the name, but his customers are pretty well known. Not that long ago, Virgil Grant wasn’t allowed to talk about his dealing and his high-profile clients, but thanks to recreational cannabis legalization in California, he represents the two eras: “the criminal past and legalized future,” as the New York Times recently put it.
Grant used to sell cannabis out of his family’s Compton grocery store. His clients included the likes of Dr. Dre, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and Coolio. He’s now the proud owner of three licensed businesses in LA, but his victory was hard-won. Because he participated in illegal marijuana dealings, Grant spent more than eight years in federal and state prisons.
Though many celebrate the rich possibilities in the cannabis business world, which has announced itself as a multi-billion-dollar industry, Grant doesn’t forget how it used to be.
Virgil Grant can now talk about it—the illicit deals that went down at his family’s grocery store in Compton in the 1980s and ’90s. Mr. Grant would stuff bags of marijuana into empty boxes of Lucky Charms and hand them to his clients, a drug deal made to look like a trip to the bodega. He vacuum sealed the cash he received and buried it in his backyard, hundreds of thousands of dollars guaranteed to stay fresh.
In many ways, Grant represents the attempted reconciliation between the nation’s war on drugs and the current legal environment. He might reminisce fondly over delivering his premium product to those celebrity clients in their music studios. But he talks just as strongly about the future possibilities available.
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He hopes to one day open legal marijuana shops in Compton, his old stomping grounds. But the city has rejected legal marijuana sales with overwhelming voting against multiple propositions that would establish a local cannabis industry. Though it might be legal statewide, buying cannabis in Compton, California remains illegal.
Yet, Grant remains hopeful, as he plans to push another vote through in the coming year. He believes it will create “hundreds, if not thousands of jobs.” As he told the New York Times, “Watch how ‘no’ will become a staunch ‘yes.’ ”