One year later and where is cannabis equity? Where is restorative justice in the industry?

by | Cannabis News | 0 comments

Author: Tanisha DeLeon

Date: February 25, 2021

It has been about a year since the beginning of COVID-19. We have seen companies rise and fall dramatically because of COVID’s impact on our daily behavior and global economy. A year ago, the legal cannabis industry experienced record sales as households stocked up on products for quarantine. With business growth, COVID circumstances have caused less employee growth and position types. Organizations and media have recently praised essential frontline workers in the cannabis industry who have been working throughout the pandemic.

Most recently, a Leafly article, “The US cannabis industry now supports 321,000 full—time jobs,” praises the industry’s economic growth and expansion of its workforce. Positions in retail, cultivation, product manufacturing and more, provide opportunities for growth and making a difference in an emerging market. Five years ago, we imagined what the legal industry would look like, this is it, and it’s far from perfect!

In the past year alone, the Massachusetts legal cannabis industry has experienced recovering from a vape ban, COVID-19, a surprise adult-use ban, and most recent changes to consumer behavior due to digitalization. I appreciated the Leafy article’s focus on how frontline cannabis workers supported a multi-billion-dollar industry while continuously experiencing growing pains and a lack of social equity. The article emphasized the lack of black cannabis business owners because of barriers to entry and federal prohibition. Cannabis companies should provide opportunities for professional growth and restorative justice. Furthermore, existing companies need to cut back on profits and directly re-distribute economic capital to employees, those impacted by the war on drugs, and especially those looking for ownership. The lack of access to economic capital and existing hurdles open wide the opportunity gap for business ownership.

What’s next? The Massachusetts Recreational Cannabis Consumers (MRCC) recently posted a video calling for the cannabis industry to restore its community through equitable practices. Not only does this video do a great job of breaking down what restorative justice looks like, but it also explains how capitalism has successfully reinforced systemic racism in the Massachusetts cannabis industry. MRCC calls for:

  • The de-colonization of cannabis
  • Access to homegrown cannabis
  • Access to affordable home testing
  • Holding the CCC accountable for equity
  • Completely expunging marijuana charges
  • Holding elected accountable for redistributing cannabis tax dollars equitably

Cannabis industry workers deserve more. Not only are too many paid under livable wages, but many are also subject to harsher working conditions. I challenge large companies to:

  1. Start redistributing their economic capital by paying workers livable wages (over minimum wage) and donating directly to communities impacted by the war on drugs. 
  2. Advocate for the health and well-being of their essential workers starting with their right to the COVID-19 vaccine. Be mindful of how day-to-day business is running in order to keep employees safe and COVID-free. 
  3. Take a hard look in the mirror after assessing the effectiveness of their social equity programs or lack thereof. How are you positively impacting the lives of those impacted by the war on drugs? If you’re giving folks opportunities how much are you paying them? If you’re helping future business owners do they really need loans or grants? How are you mitigating against entry barriers and retaining employees? How are you supporting future BIPOC owners?

With less greed and more social equity, the industry is likely to grow in a better direction. Companies are currently exacerbating the opportunity gap while selling overpriced subgrade products. All while providing economic capital for municipalities that haven’t equitably distributed funds. With more focus on social equity companies and municipalities can build a stronger base for reparations and restorative justice in an even healthier industry that is stronger with better products.

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