As more and more states legalize cannabis, the importance of supporting equity as a cannabis consumer only gets magnified.

While legislators and policymakers banter about what will work for their state, folks are still behind bars, facing barriers, and suffering consequences from policies that remain in place even after legalization.

That’s why it’s so important that you have an understanding of the businesses you support. What they’re doing can have a huge impact on this issue.

The Need for Supporting Social Equity

Black people make up 13.2% of our nation’s population but own only 4% of cannabis businesses. What’s more, one in 20 Black Americans own business equity in any industry. In the cannabis industry, however, the (embarrassing) number is 1 in 50.

Long before hopeful Black entrepreneurs fill out a state license application, they’re faced with far more barriers than their white counterparts:

  • the systemic denial of economic opportunity
  • a flawed United States criminal justice system
  • substandard access to healthcare

So paying attention to where you buy your cannabis is essential. Here is what you can do:

  1. Research Ownership

Buying from inclusive, diverse-owned, or ally-owned cannabis businesses is a great first step.

Obviously, this requires some research. While the industry is mostly led by wealthy white men who are usually interested in market proliferation, there are those making the effort to stress social equity. They understand the challenges Black people face for funding these businesses.  And since cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug federally, banks are not giving out loans – which already historically reject Black (and Brown) applicants far more than white ones.

Then there’s the twisted irony that past convictions for cannabis offenses – which disproportionately affect communities of color – continue to prevent people from entering the CANNABIS industry. It’s created a marketplace that systemically caters to white owners.

So when you’re scouting out cannabis dispensaries, look for diverse companies, as well as those who are supplied by the small scale legacy farmers who were pioneers for the current industry.

  1. Ask the Important Questions

The way we see it, if a brand is profiting from the legalization of marijuana, they should be contributing to cannabis equity efforts as well. One of the big ones is the automatic expungement of records of people who are or were formerly incarcerated for the cannabis-related offenses.

So don’t be afraid to ask companies and brands what they are doing to support this and other cannabis equity efforts such as inclusion employment practices, addressing the ill effects of the war on drugs, and supporting BIPOC leadership in the community.

You can also access databases that track how companies are doing in reaching these goals and share data about just how much businesses that claim to be involved in social equity really are.

  1. Support Companies That Educate Entrepreneurs

Unfortunately, there are companies that use people as commodities for their equity status. These businesses or organizations will often pop up in newly regulated markets and their only focus is making money.

Thus, rather than pushing the industry forward by giving marginalized people the tools they need to thrive in the cannabis space, they hire them for the sake of optics.

While you may not be able to discern whether a business is doing this, you can help by regularly contacting your state regulators and government legislators to voice concerns for cannabis equity and workforce development.

Every effort – no matter how big or small – counts.

Keep Social Equity on Your Radar

Supporting social equity as a cannabis consumer requires full awareness. You need to be intentional with every purchase you make.

By sharing what you learn and educating those around you about the damage the war on drugs wreaked on predominantly Black communities, you’re slowly building a better, stronger, and fairer industry.

After decades of work and activism to get marijuana legalized, remember that the battle is far from over for these communities. And don’t forget to keep checking with us for ongoing news and articles on this great industry.