As the marijuana industry continues to grow, growers and retailers are looking for ways to become a more diverse community and business. The marijuana industry is especially inclusive in regards of age, but is somewhat lacking with regards to women and people of color. But, with the introduction of professional networking groups like Minority Cannabis and Women Grow, that is on the road to change.
Women In the Marijuana Industry
A recent survey from the Cannabis Consumers Coalition has stated that a number of women consuming marijuana is now roughly equal to that of men. Jane West, cannabis entrepreneur and founder of the group Women Grow believes women should be flooding the marijuana industry.
“First, I want every woman to know that there’s a place for you in this industry, and there will never be a better time to find it,” West says. “The legal cannabis industry doesn’t have the entrenched patriarchal power structures that dominate most of professional life, and the sector is growing fast, so jump in and find a way to apply your skill set. Create your vision, and think big.”
People of Color in the Marijuana Industry
A recent investigation from Buzzfeed found that of the 3,600 storefront marijuana dispensaries, only around 1% are black-owned companies. Many believe this to be a direct result of the increased likelihood of marijuana-related arrests in the black community. According to a 2013 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, marijuana use is roughly equal amongst black and white individuals, though black individuals are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. While over half the United States have some form of legalized marijuana, some of these states bar people who have been convicted of drug crimes from owning, working, or investing in legal marijuana businesses.
While issues like diversity and decriminalization are controversial topics for the marijuana industry, more people of color are speaking out through conventions, panels, and the media to make sure their voices are heard.
Marvin Washington, New York Jets defensive lineman and cannabis investor thinks minorities have an historic chance to turn around the industry, and the perception of people of color within the industry, around. “We have the opportunity to do this right and make sure the people that suffered when cannabis was in the black market . . . have the opportunity to participate in the upswing,” he said.
Why Diversity Matters
The inherent value of bringing new cultures and perspectives to an industry is only a small reason diversity in the legal marijuana industry is important. Removing the negative social stigma of marijuana, as well as easing some of the legal barriers that inhibit marijuana dispensary expansion, will bring more jobs and more economic growth, especially in minority communities. Danielle Schumacher at THC Staffing Group, a business dedicated to helping diversify the legal marijuana industry agrees.
“Diversity is far more than just a moral issue,” Schumacher noted. “In the 21st century, it’s a business and economic necessity.”