Last week we did a little deep dive into the intersection between racist policies and cannabis. If you missed it, you can find the article here. Understanding the past and present is crucial in how we move into the future. Right now we know that:
1. Black people are still arrested at an average 4x the rate of white people, despite consumption rates being the same
2. The police system has always and continues to benefit from cannabis, once in number of arrests made, and now in cannabis tax revenue.
3. Cannabis laws only began to ease once an influx of wealthy white kids started smoking it – Little, 2018
To expand on that third point, let’s break down the demographics in the cannabis businesses in the 21st century. According to Marijuana Business Daily, 81% of cannabis brands are founded and/or owned by white people. That leaves 19% of businesses owned by POC, only 4.3% of which are Black-owned.
Social Equity Programs have been building momentum and refinement since legalization. Most have good intentions, but many States and applicants are reporting shortcomings nationwide. The point is that they need to exist and be prioritized. Like anything, they require commitment, good people, resources, and collaboration to make these programs successful. LA’s Social Equity Program was founded to break down some of the barriers that hinder Black and minority groups from entering the cannabis industry. “This Program aims to support people impacted by the War on Drugs and seeks to reduce barriers to entering the legal cannabis industry by providing a number of programs to support business ownership and employment opportunities.” – City of Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulations. The Cannabis Impact Fund looks to undo and heal this unjust system by providing training/workshops to establish a common understanding of systematic racism in the U.S.
In the East coast, the Cannabis Cultural Association provides legal support as well as criminal justice reform for marginalized and underrepresented communities. In New Jersey, a bill was proposed where 25% of all legal licenses must be set aside for people of color. – Charles, 2020.
On a more general level, the National Association of Cannabis Businesses (NACB) Social Equity program was launched.
Social Equity Applicants receive priority consideration in the licensing process, reduced application fees, technical assistance, and low-interest loans to under-capitalized license holders.
While organizations, businesses, and individuals are working hard to close this gigantic racial gap in the financial and legal aspects, we must remember that there is still a significant distrust between the Black community and the government, especially when it comes to cannabis policy and reform. That’s not going to change overnight. History has proven that the laws aren’t friendly to these communities when it comes to cannabis.
So What Can We Do?
There are already some kick-ass cannabis advocates making way for Black businesses to start-up and thrive. We’ve profiled a few below just to name some. We recommend reaching out, contributing, and seeing how you can get involved to build towards a more equal industry.
Cannaclusive is an agency cultivating inclusiveness. They provide marketing materials, consultations, and education to make sure that minority consumers aren’t left out of the picture. Quite literally, they even have stock photos you can use featuring a diverse group of people. Over the years, Cannaclusie has created a platform from Black bodies in cannabis to find community, organize, and educate. They support a number of public initiatives to move the equity movement forward across the country.
Supernova Women is a non-profit organization that aids and empowers women of color to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis industry. They work hard in lowering barriers of entry in the cannabis industry for Black and Brown communities.
The Floret Coalition is a movement under Broccoli Mag. It’s a collection of small cannabis businesses that are committed to and funding Black organizations through monthly donations.
The Hood Incubator builds a movement to leverage the legal cannabis industry as a model for healing and equity. By building a world where every Black person can generate wealth, health, and political power, this organization is seeking to create cannabis justice.
On a continued positive note, Jay Z has launched a $10 million dollar fund in 2021 to invest in minority owned cannabis startups.
“We were the ones most negatively affected by the war on drugs, and America has turned around and created a business from it that’s worth billions.” Jay Z, Bezjian, 2021. Billions of which white people are getting the largest chunk out of, might I add.
KindColorado and Cannabis Doing Good, founded by Kelly Perez and Courtney Mathis, serve one primary mission: build social responsibility and social equity within the cannabis industry. These are two arms that offer consulting services for cannabis brands that are prioritizing social equity, along with services and resources for supporting equity brands. In 2020, they raised $10,000 to support those most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After the success of this program, the two launched the Cannabis Impact Fund, a nonprofit arm that allows companies to pledge 1% of sales or profit to support six organizations that are exclusively focused on racial justice for the next 12 months. These two continue to do the most. Through their work, they’ve demonstrated that lasting change for equity within the cannabis industry is never a one-stop-shop. It takes growing, evolving, transforming efforts to make meaningful change.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Every decision made in the cannabis industry should be made through a lens of social equity. It is not enough to just “do better” moving forward. We have to actively undo past wrongdoings. We have to put money into Black businesses. We have to unlearn racist bias.
Featured image via Cannaclusive Stock Photos
About the author:
Bianca is the Marketing Coordinator at BARBARI and has been with the company for a year and a half now. She’s recently also begun her career in writing, and is now a contributing writer for the Cosmopolitan. Having grown up in three different cultures, she’s always held a unique perspective of the world and how it operates. Check out her personal blog at TheLifeEnthusiasts.com and follow her on Instagram at @biancabiancak