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Social Entrepreneurship

Cannabis Companies Are Thinking Ahead and Tackling Big Social Issues

The legal cannabis industry is learning from the past to make a better future.
Cannabis Companies Are Thinking Ahead and Tackling Big Social Issues
Image credit: Mihajlo Maricic/EyeEm | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Founder and CEO
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The cannabis industry has been described as the Wild West but there is no doubt cannabis is creating mainstream business opportunities in Canada and the US. Big companies including Altria and Constellation Brands have jumped in with billions of dollars to invest on bringing new vaping, edible and paraphernalia products to market.

While most of the news and discussion about cannabis focuses on consumables, responsible professionals are proactively looking ahead and developing solutions to address any social issues that arise with normalization.

Sexist advertising doesn’t cut it.

As this newly legal industry develops, please don’t think that it will accept girls in thongs and half shirts in our advertising (as the beer industry did in the 90s), or women in skin tight dresses at our trade shows (as auto shows still do) or women objectified in any other form.

Organizations are being created daily to promote women in this industry. Kyra Reed, leader of Women Entrepreneurs in Cannabis, started a movement three years ago with the sole purpose to support women in this industry. The momentum of her #BetterTogether movement hasn’t slowed down.

Related: The Marijuana Advertising Double Standard Is Stifling Our Industry

The time is now for social justice.

Business opportunities abound in the cannabis industry and investors are making an unprecedented amount of cash available for new ventures. In spite of this, blacks and hispanics are having a different experience than whites in the ‘green rush’. Many remain locked out of this huge economic event based on historical persecution targeting people of color. Fortunately, men and women are taking bold steps to address and repair the damage done. People and government are beginning to reinvest in the communities impacted by the war on drugs.

Dasheeda Dawson, a.k.a. The WeedHead™, is using legal and regulatory measures to confront social injustices. In an article she wrote, Cannabis Legalization Must Include Restorative Justice, Dawson states “...the greatest potential of the cannabis industry -- (is) to serve as an equalizer on a playing field with built-in advantages for some and disadvantages for many others.”

Even industry organizations are stepping up. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was involved in producing a viral campaign designed to educate citizens of New York on the inequity of marijuana laws and advocate for reinvesting cannabis revenue into communities that have been most impacted by criminalization.

Related: This Is Non-Negotiable: Cannabis Legalization Must Include Restorative Justice

Community support locally.

Oakland-based The Hood Incubator works to increase the participation of black and brown communities in the legal cannabis industry. Through their three core areas of work -- community organizing, policy advocacy and economic development -- they are creating a healthy and sustainable ecosystem of industry access, resources, and support that benefits, rather than harms, black and brown communities.

Only two-years old, The Hood Incubator has built a membership of more than 2,000 people nationwide. They’ve supported black and brown entrepreneurs through their Cannabis Business Accelerator program- the first people of color focused cannabis accelerator in the nation. They’ve launched a cannabis industry apprenticeship program to build the pipeline of living wage, locally-based jobs available to their communities. They continue to work closely with the Oakland City Council and community members to develop and implement the nation’s first Cannabis Equity Program.

Related: Oakland Strives to Rejuvenate Economically by Becoming California's Cannabis Capital

Mother Nature thanks you.

As one of the fastest-growing channels in both the cannabis and nicotine markets, the vape market creates mountains of waste. From the consumer-focused packaging, to the vaporizer battery and pods, the amount of refuse generated is profound. Cannabis activist Katie Stone, says “Responsible recycling is necessary in the cannabis industry and, frankly it’s the right thing to do.”

What works in other industries can be used as a blueprints for similar cannabis recycling programs. TerraCycle, known for recycling the unrecyclable, is geared to putting an end to the waste, one cartridge, vape pen, childproof bag at a time. Unfortunately, it is illegal to re-use the cannabis-holding portions of vape pens, however the materials that make up a vape pen -- from plastics to electronics and batteries -- can be recycled.

Related: The Art of Recycling Old to Give New Lease of Life

Smoke gets in my eyes.

WIth vaping cannabis and the use of e-cigarettes on the rise, it’s no surprise that people who vape and smoke are still getting push back from non-smokers. Everything from being sent outside to enjoy their vape, to dirty looks on the street when they exhale. At the same time, if you are over 18 and 21, respectively, vaping e-cigarettes or vaping cannabis is a lifestyle choice.

One company believes vaping does not have to impact the environment or other people. PHILTER™Labs, Inc is empowering responsible adults with the choice to vape in a traditional manner and to filter emission clouds based on a particular environment. Philter recently debuted the world’s first 4” x ½” dual-function filter. Developed by medical device experts with more than 20 years of experience, Philter’s first-of-a-kind technology empowers responsible adults to partake in universally acceptable vaping behavior.

Personal rights and personal choice to vape or not to vape are essential in a polite society.

Related: Vaping Causes Stronger High Than Smoking Marijuana, New Study Finds

Learning from the past.

The legal cannabis industry is still new, but we’re smart enough today to learn from the past and make the future better. Cannabis and ancillary businesses are not just looking for opportunities to provide what the Wild West provided (gold and the pick and shovel) they are looking to the future to solve what happens after the entire industry regulates.

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