Why Diversity is Important in the World of Legal Cannabis
Diversity in the legal cannabis industry is important for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is breaking down the stigma that has long linked minorities and cannabis use. In turn, an increase in minority cannabis leaders in the industry can help make it more welcoming to all consumers, including minorities. Embracing new ideas and strategies for outreach to others outside of the caucasian demographic is something that the legal cannabis industry is lagging in, but certainly requires.
Diversifying the industry can also open the doors to more consumers. With people of all walks of life involved in the business of producing and selling legal cannabis, a more diverse group of consumers can be reached. A certain level of trust and support may be felt among minority consumers who may feel more comfortable with exchanges between others of the same or similar background and race. Perhaps some consumers of color may feel uneasy about tapping into the legal cannabis market because of ongoing stigmas.
But connections between minorities directly involved in the business of cannabis and consumers can perhaps bring more visibility to minority communities, which in turn can have a positive effect on the bottom line of cannabis businesses. Further, a broader reach can help businesses gain a better understanding of the diverse needs of communities and therefore help them develop products that consumers are looking for, at various price points.
Including everyone in the cannabis industry will also help expand the industry even more than it has been. It’s estimated that legal cannabis sales will top $23 billion in the US alone, and while those numbers are high, there’s always a chance that they could taper off. But expanding on the diversity of the industry can help improve the industry’s sustainable growth. Diversity can help bring about change to all communities and foster business relationships that can withstand the test of time. Legal cannabis businesses that are owned and operated by people of the same background as those they serve in their respective communities can contribute to continued strength and sustainability of the industry.
But, it’s not all about economic expansion, people like co-founder and CEO of Janerette’s Eco-Friendly Fungi, Dozie Mbonu help encourage others to foster inclusiveness in the world of agriculture and cannabis.
Not only is Mbonu bringing sustainable solutions, but he is also instrumental in adding to minority business owners in the industry. Mbonu says, “I know diversity in the farming industry in America has been a tough ride for farmers of different races and ethnicities, but I think that the hemp industry offers an opportunity to give all farmers a fair stake in the game. The issue with diversity is the finances. By state, many companies were overvalued and a lot of investment was given early, but that investment didn’t trickle down to the diversity equation. We are in the diversity equation, but unfortunately, I do not see many people engaging because they don’t have the access or the funding — many are on their own.” With a solid business plan in hand, Mr. Mbonu took the direction to bootstrap the entire company, taking a risk which has now produced amazing results. He is not now speaking on a number of panels to cultivators seeking knowledge and education on sustainable growing.
Not only race, but as one can imagine, there’s much discrimination towards women in the industry as well. However, passionates like Alyssa Erickson, co-founder of KY Hempsters strives to inspire all females, regardless of age, to pursue their dreams and create their own paths.
She decided to get into the hemp industry back in 2014, a time she explains that she didn’t necessarily think about her mission as women in the industry. “We had a passion for the plant and wanted to have a part in helping to bring it back to our home state, which was struggling for an alternative crop to tobacco. One of the first people we connected with was our dear friend, Katie Moyer, who was a mother of two (now three) and had been working on hemp legislation in Kentucky. It was over the next year or two that we realized how being young women was truly an anomaly for the industry,” says Erickson.
“I think the biggest issue we’ve faced as women in the hemp industry, or in business for that matter, is constantly feeling like we have to “prove” ourselves. Even though we’ve been at this for more than five years, we still find ourselves in situations where we aren’t being taken seriously or have to fight to have a voice. Some of that’s on us too. We tend to underestimate ourselves or feel the need to prove our value based off past experiences. It’s important to know your worth, stay consistent in your work, and let those who underestimate you be your motivation.”