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Flickinger: We need more efforts to bring diversity into cannabis leadership because the consumer is diverse. What we can do is to have equity that actually works for all.

Because when we went looking for equity resources here in Sonoma County, as a minority-owned business, they told us to go to Oakland. It made us feel like black people are not included in this movement and really shined a light on how we need better policy making to create accessibility for businesses and diverse leaders to succeed.

Hattan: There has been a lot of discussion at the state and local level about “equity” programs, but thus far implementation has been a failure.

You also see a lot of companies talking about diversity and equity, but their actions don’t match their words.

The fastest and easiest way to see more diversity in the leadership teams is for end consumers to use the power of their cannabis dollars. Consumers need to know which companies are partnering with legacy cannabis operators and are hiring women and people of color for leadership roles.

If you see a brand that has a largely homogenous leadership team and no past cannabis experience, maybe you don’t buy their products. If we start using our consumer dollars to support businesses we believe in, we will either see companies pivot towards diversity to retain market share or they will exit the space because it is not profitable for them.

Houston: Some effort has been made to bring diversity into the industry. Social equity programs have been successful in some cases. People who were affected negatively by the “War on Cannabis” are clearly disproportionately non-white Americans, and many of them also identify with other marginalized groups.

Many of those people have been and continue to be negatively affected by institutional racism and other forms of institutional bias.

The “War on Cannabis” cost people their lives and well-being and left people with severe post-traumatic stress in addition to its economic impact. People continue to serve prison sentences for non-violent cannabis convictions. I’d like to see all those people released and all money and property that was ever confiscated by law enforcement returned to its rightful owners.

In addition, reasonable damages should be paid to each of those people. This would be a far more comprehensive solution in my view and would give people a choice in how to invest reparations.

I believe it would increase diversity in the industry by giving resources and advantages to groups of people who are interested in cannabis in proportion to the resources that were taken away from people in those groups. And it would give those who were affected but are not interested in the industry a chance to invest in whatever they choose.

Melrod: Results to date have been mixed. Many social equity programs are well intentioned but struggle when it comes to implementation. It’s important to evaluate these programs, clearly identify what works and what doesn’t and optimize existing and future programs for greater success and impact going forward.

Mercer-Ingram: True diversity starts at the top. More companies need to be owned and operated by a more diverse group of people, but the barriers to enter the cannabis industry are extremely high.

At this point, hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed to start a licensed cannabis company in California. While the state cannabis taxes are funding some equity grants statewide, including Sonoma County, the regulations and local rules can effectively eliminate opportunities for equity applicants. Those rules need to be changed to promote diversity in cannabis.

On an industry level, companies benefit if more diverse voices are present. Proof’s leadership team is 80% women. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and encourage other businesses to do the same.

And if those were successful, what would change?

Candell: If the cannabis industry and the country were able to increase diversity in leadership, the world would be a better place.

Cenali: The general public will inevitably apply conscious decisions with their dollars. Monolithic leadership causes monolithic product outcomes, and the market will ask for variety. Diverse communities consume cannabis and it’s quite simply better business to reflect that diversity in product realization and therefore on shelves.

Melrod: Greater diversity in cannabis will bring with it numerous benefits including increased creativity, higher productivity, broader perspectives and improved impact just to name a few.

Mercer-Ingram: Whether it be products or accessibility, consumers will benefit from diversity in cannabis.

Source : https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/industrynews/northern-californias-billion-dollar-cannabis-industry-sees-big-issues-to-r/

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