The EVOLUTION Magazine November 2021 | Page 36

Community News

Social Equity

How can the cannabis industry push the topic forward ?

by Danielle Buntyon , contributing writer


commitment to social equality is working toward fairness , justice , and equality by forming policies , providing public services , and managing institutions , directly and indirectly , serving the public . Yet , social equity is a flexible measure allowing equality without requiring identical outcomes . People hear “ social equity ” or “ social equality ” thrown around by cannabis businesses all the time . Are current business owners , lawmakers , and advocates really trying to diversify the industry or just appealing to the minority consumer market ? The cannabis community lacks diversity . With less than 5 % of canna-businesses owned by minorities , this industry is seen as whitewashed . With limited access to capital and significant barriers to entry deterring people of color from entering the industry , do you see social equity in the current Missouri cannabis market ?
A Fair Access Missouri website post 1 asserts that “ Missouri ’ s current medical marijuana policies are flawed in design and poorly implemented . Entrenched special interests who helped pass the 2018 ballot measure want to continue their unfair monopoly ....” Because of these flaws , the advocacy groups Legal Missouri 22 and Fair Access Missouri have filed initiative petitions to allow recreational cannabis at the state level for individuals 21 and up . The petitions call for removal penalties related to cannabis , allow for consumption spaces , call for immediate expungement of thousands convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses and employee rights . These groups also call for equitable licensing and low barriers to entry into the cannabis market .
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In my recent participation on a panel at the Missouri Cannabis Bizcon Expo , social equity was discussed with several business owners in the current market . Our discussions also explored how they are working to build social equity in their community . Many owners came up with great ideas and want to build a better industry . It was unanimously stated that more needs to be done , and the community needs to take a clear look in the mirror and realize that there are flaws . Here are few focal points to help any company build social equity in their company or brand .
Admitting Privilege
Non people of color must admit that they have privilege . This privilege alone allows them different opportunities and has a lower barrier of entry solely based on the systematic status quo that has been established . After admitting and understanding the root of the problem , they must seek change . A person or organization must take the initiative in improving policy , transforming how they think about and market to their audience , and ultimately , equalize the playing field for workers , applicants , and business owners . Admitting one ’ s privilege can open hard conversations that may not feel comfortable but are needed , especially now . These conversations will allow each party to see the other ’ s point of view .
More Diverse Locations
The location of a company ’ s stores is the first thing an entrepreneur looks at when looking for a building to lease . Do not restrict your search to predominantly white areas . When planning to open a dispensary or cannabis facility , consider searching areas that border places in your target area . Recruiting from diverse locations can also build social equity . By doing so , companies will be able to distribute your brand to a larger community , gain diverse community access , and build trust with your target audience .
Education and Hands-on Training
The common thread that binds a community is education . By making education more inclusive , companies will be able to educate everyone about licensing , loan opportunities , building permits , and partnerships . Compa-