Demand Brands’ (DB) guiding ethos is driven by diversity, inclusion, decriminalization, and federal legalization. It is critical to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry, particularly as it has been scarred by much persecution of minority groups resulting from the War on Drugs. Advocacy and education are key steps to remedying these social, economic, educational, and societal ills, and there are a few notable organizations doing exceptional work.
Efforts by the Federal and State Governments
At the federal level, decriminalization is key. Multiple key initiatives put forth in Congress have robust policy measures proposed to address community reconstruction and record expungement of those with past non-violent convictions. Additionally, federal bills encompass large, consequential changes like the (de)classification of marijuana as a controlled substance to how cannabis businesses are treated under the federal tax code. The SAFE Act (’19) allows financing lenders to service cannabis clients without federal legal punishment. The MORE Act removes cannabis from the controlled substance list—this is particularly aimed at reducing the tax burden (which is presently high) on cannabis companies. It also expunges records of those with past criminal convictions. DB advocates the ongoing push for federal legalization efforts that focus on encouraging a positive public sentiment and tackling the financial and legal criminal exposure, and disproportionate taxation of cannabis companies and their associates. We expect and are excited to see the results of the votes on the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) and States Reform Act in the Senate and House of Representatives in 2022.
The continued advocacy and execution of state-level legalization has led to tremendous social and economic benefits such as tax incentives, job creation, and sustainable boosts to employment levels, furthering the case for federal legalization. These initiatives sometimes include valuable stipulations specifically targeting minority and economically disadvantaged groups to use legalization efforts to uplift communities harmed by criminalized marijuana in the past. For example, Rhode Island, which has one of the legalization measures most likely to pass any state legislature this coming year, stipulates in its bill SB 568 that within its 150 dispensary licenses on offer, there must be an emphasis on social equity and craft cultivation licenses. The North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, SB 711, currently up for debate in the state legislature, would require one of every 4 medical use provider dispensaries to be in an area designated as economically disadvantaged. DB believes that a major benefit of state-level legalization measures is targeted emphasis on recognizing and uplifting minorities and economically disadvantaged communities in a more effective way.
Notable Efforts in the Cannabis Community
The Minority Cannabis Business Administration has been working at the grass-roots level in cannabis education and empowerment since its inception in 2015. Its efforts range from working with local representatives on designing better policy initiatives to connecting consumers and business owners with shared values. These efforts have fueled dialogue and advocacy for economic empowerment, community investment, education, and justice. DB highly commends such invaluable work in the cannabis community and wishes to engage to play its part.
The NuLeaf Project aims to tackle a few main issues facing minorities in cannabis—capital, education, and connection—and help Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a communities become business owners, professionals, and generational wealth builders in the industry. Through mentorship, skill-building, and entrepreneurship training, NuLeaf has not only fostered a community of bourgeoning cannabis professionals, but also bolstered commonly marginalized groups in the industry to create a new generation of leaders and advocates. Demand Brands sees many a bright future with such mentors at the helm.