Business News Social Equity

In the Age of Corporate Cannabis, How Can the Biggest Players Support Social Justice?

There is no question that marijuana, CBD, and hemp are fast becoming a very lucrative industry. State-legal cannabis is already a $9.7 billion industry in the US, and is projected to surpass $30 billion globally by 2021. The hemp-derived CBD industry, buoyed by passage of the 2018 farm bill, is projected to reach greater than a $20 million valuation by 2022.

But how can this newly wealthy and successful cannabis industry-at-large use its power to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs? Decades of prohibition, racially disproportionate over-policing and incarceration have ravaged minority communities around the country — now desperately in need of the kind of reinvestment that a new generation of weed money may be able to offer.

“The cannabis industry has a special responsibility to repair the harms of the Drug War, which they profit off of every day,” said Adam Vine of Cage-Free Cannabis. “A sizable portion of their potential competition is still locked up, or continue to deal with the collateral consequences of convictions that remain on their records.”

According to Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), “corporate responsibility” should be a core value of the cannabis industry, and one that should be reflected in the discussion around policy reform moving forward. “We have an opportunity — given all the hardships people have had to undergo and the underlying culture that has permeated the industry and movement for years — to make corporate responsibility central to our work,” he said.

Responsibility comes with power, which comes with money — and so the cannabis industry has a whole lot of both. On the stock market, cannabis has been a lion (or perhaps a ‘bull’), while 2018 saw the debut of the largest cannabis corporations on U.S. stock exchanges. In July, Tilray Inc. became the first marijuana-producing company to go public in the U.S. on the Nasdaq. Canopy Growth Corp. (CGC) entered the New York Stock Exchange in May, followed by Aurora Cannabis in October.

Bloomberg reports that marijuana stocks in 2018 outperformed Bitcoin, gold, and the broader market. The report also noted that the top three cannabis companies (Tilray, Canopy, and Aurora) account for almost 30 percent of the market capitalization, or value, of the top 100 companies on their cannabis index. In other words, this is quickly becoming an industry dominated by a few very lucrative companies.

Companies like Tilray have been busy partnering with alcoholic beverage behemoths, pharmaceutical corporations, and the vast consumer brand empire Authentic Brands Group to get their products into new markets for new populations. But what would it look like to use the visibility and credibility they have as the world’s biggest cannabis company to advance social equity and justice, inside and outside the industry?

Fox explained that cannabis companies can focus on improving their hiring practices and community outreach, and can direct money towards charity. He cited the example of the NCIA’s scholarship program to help new people attend their trade shows, allowing them to see the industry up close and network with those who are already deeply involved in it.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Alexander Lekhtman on Civilized

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Published: February 07, 2019

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