The cannabis industry is no exception to this sad fact. For too long, the concentration of power within the rapidly expanding sector, particularly in the United States, has been male and white, shutting out the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition.
Those of us who represent the organized industry’s leadership through the Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) recognize the injustice of exclusion. More critically, we recognize why people of color must be well represented in all facets of the industry going forward.
Prohibition has impacted communities of color
The most consistent targets of our nation’s prohibitionist policies have been communities of color. While enforcement has gone down in states that have ended prohibition, racial disparities persist. The only obstacle to ensuring people of color have equitable access to the legal cannabis industry will be the ongoing need for genuine commitment and effort.
What is abundantly clear in 2020 is that with respect to women and people of color, we do not have a supply problem in the United States; we have a sector-wide demand problem. Industry, governments, capital markets, and others who determine the distribution of resources have largely ignored talent among people of color and women. Those days must end.
CTF is committed to being a leader in changing this historical pattern, and to do so quickly. The exclusion of people of color over the past is an injustice, and the inclusion of people of color going forward is a market imperative. For cannabis companies to be healthy and successful — to know our markets, advocate for appropriate laws and regulations, and invest correctly — we must represent the markets and communities we seek to serve. This means the inclusion of women and people of color at the highest decision-making roles and across all industry levels.
In the spring of 2019, CTF constituted the independent Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force (DEI Task Force) to explain, guide, and partner with us to help drive this change through action. The DEI Task Force, which comprised some of the most influential and experienced leaders of color in the United States and within the cannabis industry, agreed to come together to work with and advise CTF on how we could do our part to improve every aspect of the industry. This includes investment, community engagement, policy development, hiring, retention, and product development.
We will soon release the DEI Task Force findings and the policies and program’s adopted by the CTF Board to meet our firm commitment to be part of the solution. We are excited to take an essential step towards a cannabis industry that reflects the America we serve and want to grow with.
Published: September 29, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News