Cultivation Classic 2019: Economic Justice: What’s the Hold-up?

If you missed the discussion about economic justice in the cannabis industry a few weeks ago at Cultivation Classic – here’s a few highlights.

Journalist Amanda Chicago Lewis (BuzzFeed/Rolling Stone) was the moderator of the talk, hosting Shanel Lindsay, founder of Ardent Cannabis and an attorney who helped write the law in Massachusetts, and Raeven Duckett, founder of Community Gardens, a cannabis delivery service in Oakland, as well as a cannabis equity activist.

The conversation really revolved around legislating economic justice through three key elements:

  1. Community reinvestment – Taking tax revenue from cannabis and putting it directly into communities of color directly impacted by the war on drugs, as well as record expungement.
  2. Priority in licensing – Giving priority licensing to people of color and providing equal market access.
  3. Incubation – Investing in POC cannabis businesses by providing capital, resources and mentorship. This is typically done by an already established larger business with deep pockets.
Amanda Chicago Lewis, Shanel Lindsay and Raeven Duckett during the Cultivation Classic’s Economic Justice panel on May 18, 2019.

There was agreement from the panel that movement to create equity was slow. “Some of the language about social equity is performative,” Lewis said.

“Equity will not happen unless we are very intentional about it,” Lindsay said. “Where is the discussion about it? I don’t see it.”

“People like Shanel are in the background, there are conversations happening,” Duckett said. “Legislation is happening. I encourage the federal government to include a diverse group of people. Not just black people. Not just women. I would encourage them to look around.”

Currently, Massachusetts has the most progressive equity law but it’s not too late for other states to get onboard. “Even more developed markets like Oregon still have the opportunity to make or break ground about equity,” Lindsay said.

“States need to be really aggressive and stop worrying about if it’s going to be too much,” said Lindsay.

Duckett said she believes government entities are passing the buck when it comes to creating equity programs.

“I think municipalities should have power because they have access to the communities,” she said. “Municipalities are in the best position to put together a comprehensive program in the best way.”

On the consumer level, it’s important to be informed where and what you are buying. Know your dispensaries, what they are selling and where they are getting their product. Just like any other industry or brand, spend your dollars wisely and with intention.

“As producers and consumer, support companies you believe in,” said Duckett. “If you are a consumer going to a dispensary, ask ‘what POC farms do you have?'”

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