Diversity in the New Marijuana Economy

Diversity Black Marijuana

The Hood Incubator in Oakland focuses on increasing the participation of black and brown communities in the cannabis industry.

There have been plenty of stories, blogs and social-media posts about the “whitewashing of the Green Rush.” For years, the Minority Cannabis Business Association and other groups have sounded the alarms about how this new wave of ganjapreneurs is distressingly monochromatic. Is anything actually being done?

Yes, things are being done. Oakland, California, which continues to be far ahead of any other municipality when it comes to cannabis, has approved a program that gives half of new city cannabusiness licenses to people with lower incomes or who live in the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the War on Drugs. 

diversity

Boston Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley is for equity in cannabis.

Massachusetts’ new adult-use pot law has a provision mandating outreach programs to the historically disenfranchised, and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley has introduced legislation that would direct 20% of unspent revenues from state and local marijuana taxes toward programs aimed at social justice and creating more opportunities for people of color. Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia have all enacted legislation designed to create more diversity in the cannabis industry. In fact, Pennsylvania requires businesses applying for medical-cannabis licenses to spell out their plan for ensuring a diverse workforce.

Women are taking the lead in cannabis industry in terms of diversity. They fill 36% of the executive positions, according to a 2015 Marijuana Business Daily survey. That’s significantly higher than the 22% national average in the non-weed world.

Also see: Cannabis Industry Not Immune to Sexual Harassment

Here’s the thing: States and cities can only do so much. Just because people of color are encouraged to apply doesn’t mean they have the access to the capital needed to to start a cannabusiness. FYI: You can’t get a bank loan for a weed business, because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

It’s up to the movers and the shakers in the cannabis industry to create a diverse workforce and investment programs, and maybe even micro-loans and grants for smaller businesses. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because studies show that diverse workforces are more profitable.

Marijuana loves diversity. Hell, three of the biggest celebrity stoners of all time are minorities. Cheech Marin is Mexican-American, Tommy Chong is half-Chinese (and Canadian!) and Snoop Dogg is a Crip.

All in all, it seems like the cannabis industry has noticed the problem and is taking steps to create positive change.

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