When the hit song playing “Legalized Cannabis” stopped, were people of color sitting at the table or standing wondering what the hell happened? As more states continue to pass legislation for medicinal and recreational use, it’s obvious the song and game being played is not designated for a minority playlist. The audacity of a multi-billion dollar burgeoning industry to exclude the very people who’ve paid the price for the war on drugs. It’s time for the cannabis sector to Color Up! It’s time for people of color, particularly Black Americans to have our seat at the table. Black people make up less than 5% percent of the industry supply chain. Don’t try to fool us either with a few rappers or athletes who licensed their names and likeness to a few strains of pre-rolls either. That’s not a Black owned cannabis company. Get this- America woke up and made the dope game legal, and decided that Black people can’t participate in a meaningful, tangible and measurable way. Seriously! From cultivation to processing to third party testing to wholesale distribution and retail, we are on the outside looking in. There is a systematic pattern of exclusion at every level.
We are loyal consumers. Is that the designated standing place for Black and Brown people? We’re good enough to spend our money on the product, but not good enough to work at cannabis companies or have ownership in a significant capacity. Ask yourself, does the top 20 cannabis companies in America support our culture or respect our economic contribution to their bottom line? There will always be token representation in a wide variety of industry sectors, but this is one marketplace we know all too well. This is one sector we should dominate in! Black and Brown people have excelled at every stage of the illegal cannabis trade. We have a master’s degree and in some cases a Phd. in the business of pot. However, the politicians have created a system that doesn’t cultivate minority licensing, and the companies have been complicit in their hiring practices. The message is clear- use the product for health and wellness, or simply to get high, but don’t bother to apply! The few movers and shakers we do have in high ranking positions seem to be Black women. Did the cannabis sector forget that Black Men exist too? Scan the company websites and review dozens of articles and you will be hard pressed to find many Black men. I am excited and respect the few Black Women who’ve gained entry into the business, but there are several competent and capable Brothers who’ve been totally disregarded by the industry gatekeepers.
The entire industry needs an overhaul from state licensing to compliance. The current business model is unacceptable. We need to exit the illegal Black Market and enter the legal market. Start protesting for change in one of the biggest growth industries to emerge since alcohol and prohibition. We have demonstrated that we have the tools to be successful in this business. But we will continue to flounder unless state cannabis laws are changed to require minority hiring, and ownership is tied to compliance! Inclusion and diversity should not be novel ideas forced on the companies, but something they proactively embrace. People of color deserve a seat at the table to share in the economic rewards of the plant. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans and all the people who support diversity need to speak up! We can do more than take a puff and pass it. We can and should be allowed to contribute monetarily from seed to sale. The Color of Cannabis is advocating for change and advocating for the culture. Be a change agent and embrace minority ownership, jobs and vendors. The Color of Cannabis is green, but it comes in many so many wonderful shades.