Cannabis Equity Check-Up
What’s working, and what isn’t.
The Broccoli Report
Friday, January 20, 2023
Time to read: 8 minutes, 1 second. Contains 1606 words.
The State of Cannabis Equity: Checking in on progress for businesses, legislation and communities.
It’s our first Friday! I’m excited. We’re going big today—and we’re also going back to our beginnings.
In September 2020, I published my first-ever Broccoli Report. It was all about the state of equity in cannabis, focusing on the increasingly complicated situation in California. This was a time of social pressure on brands to step up and do *something* about equity in the wake of the great racial justice uprisings of the summer of 2020. Equity had suddenly become an essential buzzword for brands across all industries, and a lot of pledges and commitments were made.
As we enter 2023, we are in a changed landscape. More states have legalized cannabis, and many are trying new approaches toward fostering more equitable markets. Among cannabis brands, however, enthusiasm for actively supporting equity efforts seems to be quietly waning. When I think back on 2022, no significant activations come to mind, aside from the odd shout-out from various brands that some percentage of a specific product’s profits would be going to Last Prisoner Project,
That said, not all equity efforts are publicly visible—and I have mixed feelings about splashy campaigns—so it may very well be that meaningful progress is happening. Still, there is some cause for concern. To take just one indicator—for the first time since the Floret Coalition started pooling monthly donations from brands in and around the industry, total pledges have dipped below $10k. Broccoli’s founder Anja Charbonneau thinks inflation is probably the main cause. Charitable orgs are seeing fewer donations across the board, and some folks may be feeling “donation fatigue” after the philanthropic exertions of 2020 and 2021.
Still, the idea that “equity effort” is a financial line item that can be chopped off the annual budget is evidence of a deeply problematic mindset. Our industry would not be here without the people who took risks to make it happen—the people who laid out the framework for plant cultivation, innovation, and medical advocacy underpinning our careers; the people who risked jail to keep growing and maintaining those precious cultivars. It is not an easy debt to repay, and it involves multiple approaches.
Equity is multidimensional
Cannabis equity is about people from every background deserving a fair shot at market share—from who gets hired as a budtender to who sits in the C suite to who owns the company. Equity also means creating markets that don’t implicitly favor the biggest companies or richest people, allowing small businesses and bootstrapped entrepreneurs to find opportunities. And it is essential in balancing the scales to help compensate for the wrongs committed during prohibition, whether it’s through advocacy and support to get records expunged and sentences commuted or pardoned or donating funds or a share of profits to the communities systematically marginalized during the War on Drugs.
We have learned a thing or two about what resonates and what can have real impact, but frankly, we’ve learned more about what not to do. That’s what we’re getting into in today’s newsletter—assessing just where we are and how we may be losing our way on the complicated road to equity.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Sticky Bits by Lauren Yoshiko to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.