The previous 18 months have seen more cannabis businesses identify social justice and equity issues as a top business concern. Inspired by the wave of racial justice activism following the George Floyd murder, the cannabis industry is beginning to reckon with the racist Drug War policies still wreaking racial injustice and the existing disparities that keep people of color from holding positions of power within the industry. However, understanding how to address systems of oppression that uphold racism is something that continues to pose challenges for many business leaders.
“It is not unusual to see well-intended efforts at implementing racial equity programs and policies fall flat due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the issue,” said Courtney Mathis, co-CEO of Cannabis Doing Good, which promotes the efforts of purpose-driven cannabis companies. “But the truth is, the regulated cannabis industry has benefited greatly from a product whose prohibition was weaponized to disempower Black and brown people. Folks don’t realize that many communities continue to suffer the collateral damage of these policies. As cannabis professionals, it is our business to be actively anti-racist.”
In order to help businesses understand how to better approach the issue, Cannabis Doing Good (CDG) and the Cannabis Creative Movement have developed an Anti-racism Guide that provides an overview of the issues involved, as well as concrete steps businesses can take to implement positive changes in their company. The guide is available for free download here, and encourages businesses and individuals to contribute to CDG’s nonprofit arm Cannabis Impact Fund, which promotes racial justice and supports BIPOC communities by leveraging a conscious cannabis sector. With data from a wide variety of informed sources, and links to additional resources, the Anti-racism Guide serves as an introduction to this complex issue, and can provide a “starting point” for businesses.
The business, societal and cultural rationale for implementing anti-racist practices are clear, according to data from the guide:
- Brands recognized as having a high commitment to purpose have grown at more than twice the rate as those not perceived as being purpose-driven
- 61% of Americans believe diversity in marketing is crucial
- Only 4.3% of cannabis-industry owners and stakeholders are Black while 81% are white
“Failing to address this issue any longer simply does not make sense for any cannabis business,” said Wes Donahoe, chief marketing officer at The 9th Block. “We have seen over the past two years how these issues continue to drive headlines and consumer preferences, making the business case for action clear. But the societal and moral implications are of course more pressing, and the time is now to make a change. Some of the larger companies have begun to move the needle, but even smaller organizations can and must get involved.”
The Cannabis Creative Movement is a joint initiative of PufCreativ, an award-winning community-focused cannabis marketing agency, and The 9th Block, a branding + communications firm focused on the cannabis, healthcare and tech industries. The group welcomes participation from other cannabis creatives interested in generating awareness of critical issues facing the cannabis community. For more information, email the Cannabis Creative Movement at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cannabis Doing Good educates and consults with cannabis companies in areas of social responsibility, racial equity, and environmental justice. They believe by helping companies Do Good, they will Do Better; increasing business growth, retaining employees, expanding consumer affinity and building a legacy of community-centered, people-first business practices. CDG launched the Cannabis Impact Fund, a 501c(3), to provide direct support to their 5 grantees, Bail Project, Color of Change, Black Futures Lab, Hood Incubator and Minorities for Medical Marijuana. For more information, www.cannabisdoinggood.com.