Social Equity Has Become a Driving Force in The Cannabis Industry
As the social perception of legalizing cannabis changes, so does the social equity movement’s influence strengthen within the Cannabis industry.
With the rise in States which have and are rapidly legalizing cannabis in one form or another, social justice advocates are fighting for equality in the budding Cannabis
industry. By writing legislation that includes reversing the damage done by the War on Drugs, some lawmakers are clearing the way for minority communities who have been disproportionately jailed for marijuana offenses to become growers and dispensary operators and expunging their criminal records.
What is Social Equity and Why Does it Matter?
Social equity is public policy that is inclusive of oppressed and minority communities and addresses and corrects the biases and discriminatory practices of the past which are currently written into law.
With only one in five cannabis companies owned by minorities as reported by Marijuana Business Daily, and nearly four times the amount of black people compared to white people arrested for marijuana charges despite comparable useage, social equity legislation in cannabis industry is lagging far behind fully legalizing the plant itself.
Why Is Social Equity in Cannabis Important?
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to how many people’s lives are negatively impacted by archaic marijuana laws and that minority communities have taken the brunt of it. For example, the ACLU reports on their website that in 2016, less than five percent of all Chicago marijuana arrests were white people, while an outrageous 78 percent of all marijuana arrests were of Black people despite making up only 36% of Chicago’s population.
Shockingly, that’s an improvement from the city’s 91 arrests per day happening in 2010, just two years before the City Council of Chicago decriminalized weed. And of those arrests? Most were for less than 10 grams. Combine these minor offenses with many state’s Three Strikes rule, and you can find some inmates sitting in jail for the rest of their lives for merely having a couple joints in their pocket.
What this leads to is difficulty finding gainful employment; difficulty finding housing; difficulty acquiring a loan. Countless families and lives, futures, disrupted for those who have been victimized by marijuana laws that could easily be described as a combination of Jim Crow era abuses of power and the witch-hunt-like McCarthyism of the 60s that was used to suppress political freethinkers.
What Is Being Done to Create Equity Within the Cannabis Industry?
Despite recent progress marijuana reform has made in the political arena with easier and more available access to cannabis, some businesses are taking it upon themselves to speed up the process and make social equity a part of their strategy for growth and sustaining a healthy corporate culture.
And not just in the cannabis industry. Other companies across various fields are seeing the value in fair and equitable laws surrounding federal legalization.
“We will continue to look for other pro bono opportunities that have the potential to exact social and racial justice as it relates to cannabis. It’s the least we can do as attorneys and participants in this commercial Cannabis industry.” Robert Hoben writes in Forbes Magazine about the Hoben Law Firm’s mission to right the wrongs of an unfair history of cannabis laws.
“We created a Diversity and Inclusion Committee dedicated to advocating for Black, People of Color and LGBTQ employment candidates, clients, and employees,” Hoben writes. “The intention of this committee is to challenge us and help us address the injustices each of us witnesses every day.“ He says his law firm does this through unconscious bias training for all employees and casting a wide net to attract applicants to the firm from more diverse backgrounds.
Even the NFL has taken notice. Former NY Jets football player turned cannabis entrepreneur Marvin Washington was a plaintiff in a lawsuit (though the complaint dismissed by the circuit court in 2019) challenging the federal government’s scheduling of marijuana, which led to the court admitting concern over the DEA’s “history of dilatory proceedings.”
He and others in the suit claimed that the exaggerated scheduling of marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine and with no medicinal value, infringes on their basic right to preservation of health and life. Not to mention the government’s bogus classification is completely opposite of even their own federally funded studies.
How Can You Support Social Equity in Cannabis?
If social equity is important to you there are ways to support the cause. Simply by being conscious of your purchases and supporting minority-owned businesses makes a world of difference.
Find and buy from black-owned businesses and the cannabis companies championing for social justice. Stay informed through websites dedicated to cannabis inclusivity, like Cannaclusive and CREC. Most of all, share your knowledge and help educate people of the importance of social equity in the marijuana movement.