James Henry SF: Incorporating Cannabis with Art, Science, Community, and Style.

J. Henry Alston Jr. of James Henry SF says cannabis is the plant that bridges us all together.

And who would disagree with this US Navy Veteran turned cannabis entreprenuer? With a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Southern University and A & M College, LA, Alston combines years of focused experience in military and civilian aviation, manufacturing and industrial engineering applications, consumer packaged goods, and business consulting to Oakland’s Equity Program.

Alston has also had a community voice as an advocate for various initiatives throughout his lifetime. Having participated in various demonstrations from Louisiana to NYC to Oakland and San Francisco.

He holds an impressive track record of diverse leadership experiences throughout his professional career working with organizations such as Southern University (LA), Linde North America (NJ), Viacom and Al-Jazeera (NYC), Mt. Morris Park Community Improvement Association (NYC), and Whirlpool Corporation (OK).

In additon to his professional accomplishments, Alston holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt for practicing business-process engineering, experimental design, and analytical operational excellence. These diverse skills allow Alston to integrate his operational and logistical expertise to develop and deploy lean production/business processes at James Henry SF. Practices that help run the day-to-day operations at JHSF while utilizing professional strategies such as “Continuously Improving Organization (CIO) Practices” to drive sales and new brand ambassador strategies.

Starting from ground zero for the industry’s social equity movement Alston has spoken on stage at various outlets including MJ Biz Con (NOLA and Vegas), CannaGather LA, and the SF Cannabis Task Force, to name a few. Candid Chronicle was lucky enough to have him spend some time answering a few questions about how he hopes to help fellow social equity and Minority-owned businesses while continuing to grow JHSF and future endeavors.


J Henry Alston Jr. Image: Alex Colorito - Los Angeles

J Henry Alston Jr. Image: Alex Colorito – Los Angeles


Where are you based?
Oakland, CA
How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
After a breast cancer scare with my mom and family history of cancer, James and I learned so much about a plant rather than accepting the rhetoric of a drug. We broke thru the lies of the War on Drugs, researched and met with licensed doctors about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system, and became really engaged in the Bay Area Cannabis Community. Within a few months, we left behind our corporate careers and became advocates for practical cannabis equity and wellness that can be seen throughout our brand, today.
If you own an organization, how and why did you create it?

We designed James Henry in response to our own initial experiences in dispensaries. Our founding team and investors saw an opportunity to advocate and educate, become conscious entrepreneurs, and be a part of a global multi-billion dollar conversation. At the time, the cannabis industry was comprised of less than 1% ownership by African-Americans, a very disproportionate rate to the number of men and women serving time for petty possession and other charges across states that we’re benefiting from taxes, lower opioid overdoses, and more. We created James Henry SF from a sustainably progressive and commercial approach that would incorporate art, science, community, and style. The brand had to break the negative stigma looming around cannabis consumption and we wanted to design the brand for all consumers to enjoy with experience-based messaging as well as plant cultivar information.

What sets you apart in the cannabis industry?
James Henry’s style and commitment to breaking through the stigma is leading by example. Our brand and products are supported by medical professionals that understand endocannabinology and we focus on functional cannabis wellness from a lifestyle format to address optimal consumption throughout the day. Whether it is a B2B or B2C interaction, people recognize the James Henry Experience.
Headshot Henry Alston

Image: Alex Colorito – Los Angeles

What life changes occurred when you entered the cannabis industry?
Launching James Henry taught us permanent discernment and discretion. Cannabis, in its infancy, attracted a plethora of various bad actors, both intentional and unintentional, that we had to learn how to avoid very quickly in order to be successful. The cannabis community reminded us of that you have to love people all different walks of life; while keeping your head on a swivel, of course.
What about the cannabis industry and community do you love?
We love the industry and community for the people. The consumers that we delight with quality products, the business partners that encourage and support us, and the team that helps support our operations everyday keeps us going. And we can’t forget about the reason we’re all here; no matter our sex, race, political views, etc…the plant bridges us all together and in those moments, we all see each other in harmony.
Do you have any frustrations, hopes, fears as cannabis changes?

As cannabis legalization continues across states and federally, we are inherently frustrated at the time that it is taking to release innocent brothers and sisters from prison and the war on drugs. It’s frustrating that legislatures can craft policy while intentionally leaving out cannabis equity and socioeconomic focus in a multi-billion dollar industry where a lot of Black and Brown communities are being left behind, again. Our hopes are that we can continue to grow as an organization and contribute MORE to these conversations with actionable lobbying, expungement, community workforce development and investment, and more. And we hope that all cannabis companies alike can support these causes immediately and willingly.

James-Henry-SF_product-image-Geno Simmons-Los Angeles

Image: Geno Simmons-Los Angeles

What were some of your challenges getting started in cannabis?
Capital was and still is definitely tough. If funding is already difficult for non-plant touching start-ups, add cannabis and those funding opportunities are cut signifies lower. Avoiding scammers and opportunists was a short-lived, but very important challenge for us.
Where would you like to see yourself in the cannabis industry 3 years from now?
We’d like to be a recognized, fully-integrated lifestyle brand recognized around the world. As the industry is growing here in the United States and abroad, our goals are tactical and aggressive given funding availability which were working very hard to capitalize through our own sales revenue with minimal outside investments from strategic, long-term partners (To-Be-Identified).
JamesHenrySF_LabPortraits-J Henry Alston Jr. Image: Alex Colorito - Los Angeles

James Anthony Victor & James J. Henry Alston Jr. Image: Alex Colorito – Los Angeles

What does the future of cannabis look like to you?
The future of cannabis is an equitable and sustainable industry for us. A place where cannabis is a normal medical and lifestyle conversation, just as yoga followed wine, fruit, and cheese. An inclusive industry where we all recognize and support each other because we want to and not because we have to.
How do you plan to make a positive difference in the cannabis industry?
At James Henry, we immediately wanted to make a positive impact from leading by example, utilizing the highlights from corporate experience to implement into the cannabis industry and influence small business owners and communities. We will continue to advocate for practical cannabis equity and sustainable industry practices and policy and we will continue to educate new and experienced consumers alike as we encourage responsible cannabis wellness inside and out of the industry. More than ever, the world needs more human beings vibrating and seeking to encourage and uplift each other; James Henry will be a beacon continuing to do just that.
What makes you proud or gratified to be a part of the “legal” cannabis industry?
Obtaining licensure and even remaining in business through compliance changes has been a challenge. As a cannabis equity operator in Oakland, we’re proud to be afloat with some growth and we know that it’s in part due to Oakland’s Equity Program, Eaze’s Momentum Accelerator, and Merida Capital’s i2 Accelerator. It’s knowing that we were able to take those opportunities, flaws and all, and just persevered. And we’re just getting started.

Image: Geno Simmons-Los Angeles

Do you consume cannabis? If so, how do you prefer to consume?
Absolutely, we are daily consumers and try everything before the consumer does. James prefers to vape both flower and concentrates with a Volcano or other temperature controllable device. Henry likes to roll joints, blunts, vape from the volcano, hit bongs, and more! We both enjoy edibles and beverages and lastly (but equally important) are the topicals and bath salts. Those topicals are a part of first-aid kit for burns, bites, cuts, etc.
What’s your favorite strain/cannabis product/etc?
That’s a tough one, lol. California has so much great flower and products. My personal preference is flower touched by the sun from craft, sustainable cultivators and farms. James Henry Flower, SF Roots, Gift of Doja, Cloud 9, KGB Reserve, Dios, Ojo De La Sol bath and body products, Cann and Reef beverages, Golden State Banana, GotBars and Lobo Cannagars are amongst my personal favorites.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or your business?

We’re excited to be a functioning and scaling cannabis equity brand in California! We’re looking at expanding into more states in 2021 to spread the James Henry Experience and Community Love! Be on the look out for more engaged and interactive content from our co-founders, make sure you get involved with purchases and engagements!


To find out more about James Henry SF on their Instagram or at www.jameshenrysf.com

James Henry is a minority-owned and operated cannabis company with licensed, manufacturing, distribution, and retail delivery compliant operations in Oakland, CA as a part of Oakland’s Equity Program. They support diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry by creating opportunities and partnerships that help further the goal of socio-economic justice in the cannabis space.