MJI News: Achieving Diversity in the Cannabis Industry

MJI News: Achieving Diversity in the Cannabis Industry

Excerpt from MJI News

Diversity, like love and peace, is a virtue widely embraced. Getting it done takes working through the grittier details, though. According to Jesce Horton, Cofounder and Vice President of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, speaking at a recent MJ Freeway Webinar on Diversity in the Cannabis Industry, “This is an opportunity not just to build another industry, but a new, different and better industry.”

Different and better means, among other things, improving ownership and career opportunities for communities of color, women, LGBT individuals and others not yet involved in the industry. Studies tie diversity to business success in compelling ways. A commitment to inclusion can help enterprises grow and keep a competitive advantage in corporate culture, employee morale, retention and recruitment.

Diversity in Ownership

“For lack of a better word, minorities are shell shocked when it comes to anything regarding cannabis, regarding drugs and the potential to be arrested,” Horton said.

The barriers to ownership are more than attitudinal, however. The high cost of starting any business, even outside the cannabis industry, is daunting to many new entrepreneurs. But the lack of traditional financing for the cannabis industry is enough to exclude many in minority communities.

State licensing requirements set financial and other requirements that seriously restrict the pool of potential license holders.

Jazmin Hupp, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Women Grow noted, “Teams in New York are currently spending upwards of $1 million just to apply for one of the five potential licenses. If they receive the 2-year license, they will need $15 to $35 million in capital to operate. That means that groups that haven’t traditionally had access to capital are completely shut out of this opportunity.” ….

Diversity in Employment

To increase diversity in management and staffing, Horton recommended community outreach through existing national and local cannabis organizations, such as his own Minority Cannabis Business Association, as well as Women Grow and the National Cannabis Industry Association.

A number of other business associations, not necessarily focused on cannabis, may be valuable resources, as well, including the National Association of Asian American Professionals, campus chapters of the Middle Eastern Students Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Senior Job Bank.

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