Issues of race remain at the top of civic priorities for parties espousing both progressive and regressive policies. Right now, the United States is arguably working through one of its most heated “Come to Jesus” moments about institutional inequality and behaviors of bigotry. A huge part of the discussion for the end of cannabis prohibition logically centers around this piece of social justice, and a growing chorus of advocates and entrepreneurs are elevating its awareness. With the new market potential the emerging cannabis industry brings with it, this moment in time needs to be leveraged for larger social growth instead of perpetuating systems of economic inequality.

From Johnny Green at WeedNews.co:

“Oakland-based nonprofit organization The Hood Incubator, which works to increase participation of Black and Brown communities in the legal cannabis industry, today announced a partnership with Eaze, the leading cannabis technology company headquartered across the Bay in San Francisco. This partnership is the first step in Eaze’s commitment to giving $1M in funding over the next three years towards social equity efforts in the Bay Area cannabis industry. The initiative will lay the groundwork for transforming the cannabis industry and establishing a precedent for commitment to equity through innovative programmatic initiatives and progressive policies locally and beyond.

“America’s War on Drugs has failed and worse, has disproportionately affected minority communities. Marijuana use is roughly equal across races nationwide, yet Black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Now that cannabis is a thriving $8 billion legal industry, Black people make up less than 5% of founders and business owners. As part of this historic partnership, Eaze will play an instrumental role in advancing The Hood Incubator’s vision to create a healthy ecosystem of industry access, resources, and support that benefits, rather than harms, Black and Brown communities.

The International Cannabis Business Conference, which will be returning to the Bay Area, with its fourth San Francisco conference this February 1st and 2nd, supports efforts to include more people of color and women in the cannabis industry. The ICBC, while certainly focusing on business, always includes activism as part of its themes and understands that the most important aspect of legalization is keeping people out of prison and keeping barriers to entry low so that more people are able to enter the market.

The ICBC has partnered with Supernova Women, providing a free sponsorship to the pioneering organization and has featured co-founders Tsion “Sunshine” Lencho and Amber Senter as speakers both of whom participated in panels addressing of the moment issues for cannabis business owners. According to Lencho, “The ICBC is among the few conferences that attempts to include diverse business owners and constituencies in its programming and activities. Supernova Women’s history with ICBC goes beyond its participation as a partner.  Founders Amber Senter and Nina Parks met at ICBC three years before this year’s conference.  The organization is excited to see the continued dedication to diversity demonstrated by this conference and its organizers.”

The cannabis legalization movement has made great strides decreasing cannabis arrests overall and creating jobs and generating revenue. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that benefits are felt across all demographics. All advocates and entrepreneurs should continue to seek innovative ways to correct the ills of the racist, classist, and harmful War on Drugs.