More than two decades ago, Karim Mayfield was arrested for possession of marijuana and headed to prison at the age of 18.
Today, in a remarkable about-face, the professional boxer and former North American Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion is the latest member of the growing ranks of Bay Area cannabis entrepreneurs.
On Jan. 23, Mayfield will open the doors to Authentic 415, a dispensary in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill. Operating in partnership with the cannabis holding company Shryne Group, the San Francisco native’s new business is the culmination of years of hard work marked by setbacks and breakthroughs — a fitting capstone to the discriminatory enforcement of the law that nearly derailed Mayfield’s life.
“[San Francisco] has been a safe space for cannabis users, but that was contingent on what area you grew up in,” Mayfield said. “In [the Fillmore District where] I grew up, you were bound to go to jail. I went to jail, and I suffered the consequences for being arrested. It tarnished my record, and facing my family was hard. Facing the barriers to employment was hard.”
Luckily, success for Mayfield was just around the corner — literally.
After his release from prison, Mayfield discovered a boxing gym that had “opened a couple of blocks from where I lived,” he said. “I fell in love with it.”
Despite discovering boxing at the relatively late age of 20 — many professional boxers start training in their teens — Mayfield found he was a natural. In 2006, he won the Northern California Golden Gloves, a local tournament featuring the top amateur talent. Soon after, he made a statement in his professional debut, knocking out his opponent in just one minute. Over the next 12 years, the three-time boxing champion would net a record of 21-5 with one draw.
Boxing also exposed him to the homeopathic qualities of marijuana — and sparked the inspiration that would lead to his transition into the cannabis industry.
“During my [boxing] career, I was introduced to CBD,” he said. “It helped me remarkably. I could bounce back from sparring, training matches more quickly. It made me a client, patient and believer in cannabis.”
In 2018, Mayfield successfully applied for San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program, a project designed to create pathways into the booming cannabis industry for those impacted by racist policies of the so-called “War on Drugs.” From there, it was a matter of being “fully compliant, dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s” — a process that he credits Shryne Group for streamlining.
The Authentic 415 dispensary will offer a standard inventory of consumables and paraphernalia, as well as products focused on marijuana’s health applications.
But Mayfield wants his business to be more than just a storefront. His plans to give back are ambitious: He expects to donate a percentage of the dispensary’s proceeds back into the Fillmore District community. He also aims to expand his youth boxing program, Soul Champs, which he started seven years ago to help disadvantaged kids “be a champion of their own soul.”
“A lot of the youth I work with, they’re fatherless, or they’re on drugs, or they’re in a gang,” he said. “I’m actually looking to open a youth facility and have not only boxing, but mentorship and education. I believe I’ll be able to achieve that [as a result of opening Authentic 415]. They’re the next generation, and I hope to help them in any capacity that I can.”
For now, though, Mayfield is content creating a space for people to come together.
“I want it to feel like home, where everybody knows your name,” he said. “Authentic 415 is going to be a cannabis club for the people. We’re not just in it for ourselves. We want to be a great resource for them.”