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Cannabis companies seem to be sensitive to the issue and it looks as if small steps are being taken to be inclusive as the industry continues to build and grow.
Diversity is the word of the day when it comes to the cannabis industry. It’s the word that sunk the attempt to legalize adult use cannabis in the state of New York and it’s also the issue that torpedoed New Jersey’s march to full legalization.
In the early days of the legal medical marijuana market, the demographics of industry insiders skewed to outliers, risk-takers and women who were tired of banging their heads on the glass ceilings of other industries. People of color with past incarcerations were largely shut out of the industry. The advocates pushing for legalization basically had to agree to a strict no criminals rule in order for the states to gain a level of comfort. The unintended consequence of that bargaining tool was that people of color got pushed aside in the early days of the cannabis industry.
As more data was released it was realized that black and brown people were arrested and jailed far more often than their white cannabis counterparts. Thus, legalization laws that required no executives with a criminal past meant that population was excluded from the party. Those statistics have been used as reason for arrest record expungements so that people with prior marijuana arrests can start over with a clean slate and enter the industry. States now realize that expungement needs to be a part of the social equity formula so that this demographic isn’t cut out of the legal community altogether.
Women in Cannabis
Women had a much better shot at grabbing a seat at the executive cannabis table than people of color, but it seems they are fighting to keep those gains. Women jumped into the cannabis industry in the early days as they accepted the risk of working in cannabis. According to Debra Borchardt, the CEO and Co-founder of the cannabis financial news website Green Market Report, “The general attitude from the early cannabis pioneers was ‘what have I got lose?’ We weren’t moving up in traditional sectors the way we felt we should be and weren’t getting equal pay. So why not take charge of our careers in cannabis? The opportunities were there for the taking because men, as breadwinners, weren’t willing to take that risk.”
Published: October 22, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News