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Social Equity in Cannabis Industry


We all know the cannabis industry has blown up and shows no signs of slowing down, with continued legalization and slowly fewer stereotypes and stigmas. 2021 reports show that the 37 states with legal cannabis offered 321,000 full-time jobs in cannabis. So, with that many jobs, the issue of social equity in cannabis industry has become even more pressing.

Going back in history a bit, the blame has been put on mainly minority groups. Immigrants from Mexico were originally blamed for importing cannabis to the United States, and essentially “infecting” our culture with it. Communities of colour become the target of blame for distribution and subsequent violence along with it. The bias has followed these minority groups right up to the present day.

What is Social Equity?

Social equity is about assessing the needs of people across the nation to provide them access to opportunities for success.  Equity means all people would receive the resources they uniquely need to have the same chance at success. It recognizes that not everyone starts with the same resources and some groups face higher barriers to succeed.

Getting your foot in the cannabis door comes with many hurdles, anything from seed to sale tracking, to the security systems. The biggest thing that keeps equity out of the cannabis industry is how expensive it is to enter. The cost of licensing is a huge hurdle and minority business owners are having the most difficulties.

Ways to ensure equity? A big one is not to limit the number of people who can participate and not create these fees that are so massive, only the rich can participate. There’s a real need to make sure that we aren’t promoting an anti-competitive industry. There should be the same opportunities for minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and military-owned businesses. It’s also important to make sure that they have the capabilities to compete and thrive in the industry.

social equity in the cannabis industry
Photo by Terrance Barksdale from Pexels

Social Equity and Cannabis

According to a 2019 report by Marijuana Business Daily, minorities own only 1 in 5 cannabis businesses. Thankfully there are organizations out there that are taking steps to provide more equity in the industry. For example, The Equity Organization is dedicated to assisting with drug policy and other criminal justice reform policies for the industry, educating the community, and advocating for effective and equitable approaches to cannabis policy and other issues. There are also organizations that aid smaller cannabis companies and entrepreneurs with money management and even small loans. 

Additionally, certain states have been reducing application costs for minority applicants and with cannabis sales-generating billions of dollars in tax revenue, many states put this money back into the communities that were most harmed by prohibition by funding things like education, job training, and small business development programs.

Deciding exactly who benefits from social equity programs can be a complicated task. These programs target people of colour, low-income people, and people previously incarcerated for cannabis offences. The good news? Black-owned cannabis brands are growing in number and stature, and some are even making social equity part of their business plan.

Are you planning to invest in cannabis industry? What is your take on social equity in cannabis industry? Do you think lowering the financial barriers for licensing will help small business owners? Please share your views with us and don’t forget to follow us @cannalifenet!


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