The Cannabis Industry Fails Minority Professionals: It’s Time To Do Better

This article was originally published on Weedmaps, and appears here with permission.

It’s little wonder why we don’t see much diversity in the cannabis industry. Minority communities have been disenfranchised in the United States for centuries, and having little access to the business is yet another setback.

And through time, the government has been a major force in oppressing minority populations by using cannabis as a weapon. When commenting on the 1970s War on Drugs, President Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, infamously told Harper’s, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” 

How can we expect healthy diversity when entire generations have been desecrated by their own country’s mandates and policy?

And it isn’t just insidious laws that are keeping people well behind the curve, it’s also everyday racism and microaggressions. It’s ignoring the insights made by Black employees and other minorities in company meetings, yet paying attention when a white coworker says the same thing just a few moments later, or deeming natural Black hair “unprofessional” in the workplace. These biases happen all the time. So how can the industry get past this? How can we uplift and promote minority voices throughout the cannabis world? How can we make change?

To better understand the issues many people face when starting out in the industry, we spoke to My Green Network‘s CEO James Shih. From their website, My Green Network “is a California cannabis compliant manufacturing facility designed to provide an all-inclusive solution to enter the legal cannabis manufacturing market without hassle.” 

Currently, My Green Network is running Green Quest 2020, a contest where they will grant a “deserving minority-owned business a California Type-S cannabis manufacturing license.” Green Quest is a great opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. Shih noted of the winner, “We’re going to pay for their license, we’re going to subsidize their rent. We’re going to move them along the process, mentor them, and put them in the cannabis network.” Applications for Green Quest are open until September 15. 

Getting past the high costs of the industry

If you’re serious about starting a cannabis business, there’s one thing you need first and foremost: money. A lot of money. 

You need money for a license, a manufacturing facility, a dedicated team to oversee social media and advertising, technical employees, day-to-day work and management — you need money for just about every step of the process. On average, opening a new cannabis business can range anywhere between $50,000 to $2,000,000 on up — just to start. 

Shih began his career as a lawyer, shifting into the cannabis …

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