It’s not often for a true emerging industry to come along, but the cannabis industry is just that. Over 45 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana and 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana. In addition to the options that get you high, the Farm Bill of 2018 makes hemp-derived CBD legal in all 50 states. Unfortunately, racial diversity is lacking in the cannabis industry. Here are just a few reasons why diversity in the cannabis industry is lacking.
Minorities Are Still Stigmatized
It has taken communities of all ethnicities and backgrounds to embrace that cannabis is a plant with medicinal benefits, and that CBD delivers the same benefits of marijuana without the high. However, many minorities who may benefit medicinally from marijuana and CBD stay away from both out of concern of being stigmatized.
This is an after-effect of the War on Drugs, which primarily targeted minority communities—who continue to have far harsher punishments when caught with drugs of any kind. Stigmas, fear, and societal stereotyping keep many African American and Latino Americans from considering any type of legalized cannabis products. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, the industry can better speak to these hesitant demographics. Think Big, co-founded by Notorious B.I.G.’s son CJ Wallace, is one powerful organization helping to drive this conversation forward in a positive light.
Laws Prohibit Minority Cannabis Employment
The United States is a free market where anyone can own a business right? Unfortunately, many states restrict individuals with prior drug convictions or criminal records from owning and/or working in any type of cannabis business. This includes working in positions where zero interaction with cannabis products is required, such as clerical positions, accounting, or marketing. For example, some states prohibit anyone with a felony from owning a cannabis business, while some only prohibit felony owners for a designated timeframe—typically 2 to 5 years.
These laws disproportionately impact people of color, further minimizing the diversity in the industry—as well as the entrepreneurial and job opportunities in this fast-growing emerging industry. If the goal of our justice system is to rehabilitate, we must not punish those who have served their time by restricting employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Why Diversity And Inclusion Matter
Diversity and inclusion of every kind benefit every industry as it ensures that there is targeted marketing to the unique needs of a variety of demographics. This goes beyond having an Affirmative Action Plan, to providing a seat at the decision-making table. A diverse group of entrepreneurs, executives, and employees provides invaluable growth-building insights. In regards to the cannabis industry, this includes how to better meet the needs of each demographic.
Think of this kind of like you would when watching an episode of Undercover Boss. The “boss” works with employees they typically wouldn’t engage or hear from and always walks away with ways to better serve both their internal and external customers. As part of the health and wellness industry, we must have minority inclusion in the cannabis industry to ensure everyone’s health and wellness needs are being heard and addressed.