Aundre Speciale lives up to her name. She is a badass boss woman, an activist, and a mother. Aundre is a leader that mentors the next generation of cannabis influencers, including her daughter. She follows her mom’s footsteps in the family business. When I think of Aundre, I always think of someone fun-loving and energetic. This is probably because we met at First Fridays– a monthly art fair in Oakland where the streets shut down and become a giant party. So when she suggested we meet in person, I was excited about the opportunity.
From Artist to Activist
Aundre grew up in Los Angeles starting at the age of 12, under tough circumstances living with various relatives, ‘in the system’.
“I know that the system is flawed”, she says. “I went through things that are not okay.”
Her experience led to her fight against the system and get involved with cannabis activism and business. Like me, Aundre is also influenced by some of the early legends of the cannabis community.
“I had a neighbor in Venice and he started talking to me about hemp, it’s many great qualities, and his activism work. It piqued my interest. Later I understood my neighbor was Jack Herer.
“I was selling jewelry and stuff on the Venice Beach boardwalk, and Jack asked me if I wanted to work at his booth. I started going with him to events and festivals,” Aundre reminisces “At the time I was really angry at the system and the experience really helped me sort through my feelings, giving me an outlet to express them.”
Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley AKA CBCB
Although Aundre doesn’t go around claiming to be the first, she was an integral part of creating one of the first medical cannabis dispensaries in California: The Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley.
“Jim Squatter started a Cannabis activism and cooperative group in 1996 that later evolved into CBCB. He was homeless, and an activist– not just for cannabis but also a nuclear activist,” she explained. The buyers club moved to its new location down the street in Berkeley in 2009 and has been there ever since. “The business has undergone several versions of restructuring, but the spirit has remained—and so have many members of the staff!”
One of the coolest things about CBCB, according to Aundre, is that the dispensary started with a focus on patients and compassion,
“Everyone who is with us, including the staff, brands, and customers, still support that,” Aundre states.
CBCB started at a Berkeley radical resource center called the Long Haul, and even as its own brick-and-mortar business, it still kept its community focus.
“Our dispensary has programs that fit every person’s needs. We have bi-monthly BBQs for the community that the UC Berkeley students who live in the neighborhood love to attend,” says Aundre. “Thanksgiving dinner is one of the highlights of the year, and several hundred people come out.”
In addition to the outreach, and fun activities, CBCB also provides free food for the neighborhood! There is a community pantry in the reception area of the dispensary. People leave dry goods, and fill up the refrigerator and shelves every week. And others come with their grocery bags and pick up food to prepare healthy meals.
“The number one thing that I am proud to say is that we are true to our roots,” Aundre exclaims. “We remain compassionate and community-centered, even as we are being taxed practically out of existence.”
The dispensary staff and leadership continually work to improve access for consumers of all kinds. CBCB works with cultivators to offer a wide range of products to ensure every need is met. For example, they carry a variety of products that contain various THC levels– from very high, to as low as 1%, as well as high CBD products.
‘Chose Love’ is the number one value of CBCB, and as Aundre proudly states:
“Love is the business model”. The dispensary is an opportunity to put that concept into action. How do they do it? Through community impact! It provides a place where people really want to work, and many employees who have worked at the company now own their own businesses.
One budtender, Jay, has been at the dispensary for over 20 years, saying he loves his work because of the people. He has seen patients come in with all types of illnesses and conditions and he loves that CBCB helps them every day to live better lives.
CBCB supports various projects in the community, including funding art murals, sponsoring events like Juneteenth, and participating in civic engagement.
“The neighbors know us by handing out Otterpops at neighborhood events,” Aundre proudly announces.
And when CBCB isn’t showing up for the community at events, they fund research and engage in cannabis activism.
Aundre looks forward to a future: an educated and compassionate cannabis industry.
“I am starting to see a resurgence and interest in legacy farmers’ stories. The industry is moving away from ‘centerfold’ looking buds that are grown with who-knows-what, and not realizing what makes the bud quality,” Aundre says, “But we are in the midst of a culture change and it is cool to see more legacy growers uplifted and respected.”
The Cannabis Buyer’s Club of Berkley is a great example of a compassionate dispensary. They consistently show up for the people, and Aundre is a loving leader.
To find out more about Samantha and Kind Philanthropy visit her website here