Cannabis-Legal States Working to Increase Diversity in Industry

Nevada and Colorado among jurisdictions pushing to include more minorities and women in business
Written by 
Chris Kudialis, CBD and Cannabis Reporter.
|Last Updated:

Using CBD and cannabis before the early 2000s almost certainly meant jail time for anybody that police caught in the act. A disproportionate percent of the people busted for weed, compared to the overall U.S. population, were African American men.

While minority groups have since benefited from an increasing number of states making the plant legal in recent years, statistics show the overwhelming number of high-level executives in the new industry are Caucasian. But recent movements in several states have picked up momentum and seem destined to make change in the near future.

In Nevada, a demographic survey from the state’s Cannabis Compliance Board showed that only 38 percent of cannabis employees identified as female, compared to 62 percent that identified as male. The numbers became more lopsided moving up the ranks, with only a quarter of marijuana company owners and just 17 percent of executives being women. For comparison’s sake, women make up 50 percent of the state’s 3.1 million residents.

Employees and consultants, considered the lower-level positions in the industry, tended to be the most diverse, with 48 percent identifying as non-white and 40 percent identifying as female. As a whole, Caucasians made up 53 percent of the industry, while accounting for only 48 percent of Nevada’s population.

The state’s cannabis demographics aren’t too far off from those of the general population. But leaders say more work needs to be done to include women, and especially minorities, at the higher levels.

“Outlawing this plant has caused irreparable harm to minorities, so just making the legal industry proportionate to the population isn’t enough,” said Dallas Harris, a Nevada State Senator. “Cannabis should be the most diverse business in the country.”

In Colorado, new efforts at both the state and local levels are moving forward. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is signing a citywide ordinance this week that gives preference to “social equity applicants,” defined as people previously convicted of certain cannabis offenses before legalization and people living in low-income communities.

The state will soon see the rollout of a $4 million project that established a social equity marijuana fund for minority business applicants. Another bill, set to be voted in the coming days, aims to expunge previous marijuana offenses for possession of 2 ounces of the plant or less.

Chris Kudialis
Chris Kudialis
CBD and Cannabis Reporter
Chris Kudialis is the mainstream media’s authority on marijuana and CBD news coverage in Las Vegas. Chris began covering the beat as a reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015, when cannabis had been medical-only for almost two years and the first dispensaries were just opening.

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