By Tiara Troup

Can We Grow? Solving Equity In Cannabis

The cannabis industry is a rapidly growing industry, with more and more states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. However, there is still a lack of equity in the industry, particularly when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

One major issue facing the industry is the lack of access to capital for minority-owned businesses. Starting a cannabis business can be expensive, and many people from underrepresented communities simply do not have the financial resources to get started. Even when they do have the means to start a business, they may face discrimination from investors who are more comfortable working with people who look like them.

Another issue is the lack of access to licenses and permits. In many states, the process for obtaining a license to grow, distribute, or sell cannabis is complex and expensive. This can make it difficult for small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, to enter the market. Additionally, many states have given priority to existing medical marijuana businesses when it comes to obtaining licenses for recreational use. This has created a barrier to entry for new businesses, particularly those owned by people from underrepresented communities.

There is also a lack of diversity in leadership positions within the industry. According to a 2020 survey by Marijuana Business Daily, only 4.3% of cannabis company CEOs were Black, and only 19.5% were women. This lack of diversity in leadership positions can create a homogenous culture that does not prioritize the needs and perspectives of people from underrepresented communities.

So, why is it important to address these issues and create more equity in the cannabis industry?

First and foremost, it is a matter of social justice. People of color have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, and the cannabis industry has the potential to provide a path to economic empowerment and community development. By ensuring that people from underrepresented communities have access to the industry, we can help to level the playing field and provide opportunities for those who have been marginalized.

Secondly, it is good for business. A diverse workforce and leadership team can bring new perspectives and ideas to the industry. It can also help to attract a wider range of consumers who may feel more comfortable supporting businesses that reflect their values and identities. In short, creating a more diverse and inclusive industry can help to expand the market and drive innovation.

So, what can be done to promote equity in the cannabis industry?

One important step is to provide more access to capital for minority-owned businesses. This can be done through a variety of means, including grants, loans, and tax incentives. State and local governments can also prioritize funding for businesses owned by people from underrepresented communities.

Another step is to streamline the process for obtaining licenses and permits. This can include reducing the cost of applications and providing technical assistance to help businesses navigate the process. States can also consider giving priority to new businesses and those owned by people from underrepresented communities when it comes to licensing.

In addition, the industry needs to prioritize diversity and inclusion in hiring and promotion decisions. This can include setting diversity goals, creating a culture of inclusion, and offering training and development programs for employees from underrepresented backgrounds.

Finally, the industry needs to prioritize social responsibility. This includes supporting community development initiatives and investing in programs that promote social justice and equity. It also means being transparent about business practices and ensuring that all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers, are treated fairly.

In conclusion, there is a clear need for more equity in the cannabis industry. By addressing issues such as access to capital, licensing and permits, diversity in leadership positions, and social responsibility, we can create a more inclusive industry that benefits all stakeholders.