Accountability List Calls For Racial Corporate Responsibility In Cannabis And Hemp
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Accountability is a long-term goal for industries that are intrinsically tied to racial justice. Cannabis is one of those industries.
While it seems the news cycle has possibly shifted its focus from the Black Lives Matter movement to other issues, righting systematic wrongs is still an important ongoing responsibility for entrepreneurs within the cannabis and hemp industries. That's why one group of business owners is inspiring cannabis to stay the course with The Accountability List.
The Accountability List offers information on cannabis and hemp companies' diversity, social equity statements, what action they have taken, if they have diverse hiring plans in place, or if they have a history of racism. Various power players within the industry created and continuously vet this living document. Its creators include: Mary Pryor, Founder of Cannaclusive and Chief Marketing Officer at TonicCBD; Savina Monet, a Graphic Designer and part of the Cannaclusive family, proclaimed the 'international queen of cannabis collages'; Kassia Graham, Director of National Projects & Social Media at Cannaclusive; and Natasha Przedborski, Founder of feminist cannabis product purveyor Pussy Weed, among other voices.
Pryor is a force within the cannabis space. She penned this open letter to the cannabis community that is a continued call for accountability. Her company Cannaclusive facilitates fair treatment for minority cannabis entrepreneurs, offers diversity training, and also is home to the largest inclusive database in the industry with over 200 businesses listed. Called the InclusiveBase, it was built in partnership with Almost Consulting.
The company has also built out a diverse cannabis stock portfolio. The goal is for the industry not to simply use cannabis consumers of color in marketing imagery, but to have true inclusion throughout the company. Cannaclusive's mission is to make it, "easier for brands to communicate with diverse audiences and ensure that minority consumers are not an afterthought, but a valued ally in the fight for legalization and destigmatization."
In a roundtable discussion, some of the list's creators speak on why accountability is important, the future of diversity and inclusion training, the best next steps entrepreneurs can take, and what employees in the industry can do in order to make their voices heard.
Tell me your mission with The Accountability List?
Savina Monet: The Accountability list is important because it finally quantifies what many have felt in the cannabis industry. The ability to point at the list and share the numbers finally gives power and credibility to Black and Latinx voices that have long testified against the discrimination in the legal cannabis industry.
Kassia Graham: This is something I'm asked constantly and my response is that it's a loaded question. There has been so much turmoil in the USA and globally. Overall, the team is doing well in the wake of COVID-19 and the protests against police brutality. However, we're constantly assessing what it means to be Black in the USA, and in the cannabis industry.
Cannaclusive, the team working on The Accountability List, and our supporters want to see:
Proven and continued diversity and inclusion within cannabis organizations.
Sustained support of Black Lives Matter, cannabis legalization, and social justice organizations dedicated to aiding Black people and non-Black people of color (NBPOC).
Timely and actionable responses to crises affecting Black people and NBPOC.
Non-tokenized, and regular, representation of Black people and NBPOC whether visual or written––industry news, panels, social content, and the like––by brands and publications.
Savina Monet, Graphic Designer in the cannabis space and co-creator of The Accountability List.
I want to know, for those readers of Green Entrepreneur who may be in the industry: budtenders, growers. Are you welcoming accountability from all employees of this industry? How can these industry workers best submit or get in touch if they have something to add to The Accountability List?
Graham: Yes, Cannaclusive welcomes submissions from those in every area of the industry. Submissions to The Accountability List have been received from consumers, budtenders, executives, founders, and more. What matters is all information can be fact-checked and supported whether positive or negative. The industry and consumers are showing up. It's truly a group effort.
Cannaclusive and The Accountability List centers on something that is important, which you phrased as "living your values." It is not enough for companies to say they are in support, they have to back it up with behavior from the root up to the c-suite. How do you feel The Accountability List informs cannabis consumers of corporate behavior?
Graham: More often than not, you'll come across a cannabis company with a fluffy mission statement that seems pro-people but its actions are solely pro-profit. The Accountability List is what you get when the curtain is pulled back. Viewers are able to see clearly who founded and/or operates a company; how much a company is worth versus how much they give back to organizations that serve communities impacted by the War on Drugs; the ratio of a company's size to the number of Black employees, and how many of those employees are in roles where they have a voice. We'll be working on numbers for other races soon. Also, how companies respond to social issues. At this time, our focus is police brutality due to its impact on Black and Latinx people.
There is much worth exploring so we encourage consumers, founders, and other cannabis community members to visit the list. Consumers can figure out how they want to vote with their dollars. Businesses can figure out if they want to be on the right side of history and are truly in the industry for the right reasons. Businesses compete with each other at every instance. Why not see who can be the best at pushing social equity forward?
Natasha Przedborski: As we move from an extralegal to a legal market we need transparency. The work we’re doing with this list is holding these companies accountable and pushing for conscious cannabis brands and consumers.
Is Diversity Training the next step? I know it is an important and impactful piece of your work Mary at Cannaclusive. Do you want to speak to where formal Diversity Training is needed in the cannabis space?
Mary Pryor: I think we beyond diversity training. It is clear that Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) hasn’t been taken seriously as it should be, and the gaps of diversity training are not matching up with ROI in order to produce tangible and equitable results. We need to teach inclusion and equity in order to coincide with the economic impact of racism and what it means to engage white privilege and the meaning of giving to emphasize how leveling the playing field is a daily practice. Not a marketing campaign or performative act based out of fear or cancel culture.
Mary Pryor, Founder of Cannaclusive.
How do cannabis companies get in touch to hire, and properly compensate people who are experts in Diversity and Inclusion?
Pryor: Cannabis companies typically don’t. We’ve experienced the run around on this from several corporate brands and hiring companies over the past two years. Unfortunately, it’s taken civil unrest, public viewings of Black trauma, and pandemic restrictions for those who have been silent to understand the boiling point we are at right now.
This work might be taken seriously after all, but skepticism is still present due to false promises and a lack of follow-through. I suggest that companies be open to the rates and concepts that experts are bringing to the table versus shortchanging and expecting free labor from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian voices.
How do we make sure the cannabis industry maintains course, momentum? Tips for endurance?
Graham: Taking a tip from dosing; companies should start low and go slow. This doesn't mean scrape the bottom of the barrel. Work from the root of the issue and proceed in a manner that will be sustainable and show positive, impactful results. This means working with multiple stakeholders: experts in the space, company staff, communities, and all levels of management. Setting smart goals and sticking to them, being transparent and accountable to stakeholders, and being open to course correction. Show your work.
Pryor: The Accountability List will be a living breathing document with updates and news of where companies are staying the course in supporting inclusion and equity. We plan on making the consumer very aware of who cares about the lives of those affected by the War on Drugs along with who is supporting marginalized communities from here on out and until the work is done.
When it comes to Social Equity programs in legal cannabis markets, do you feel there are any doing enough? What would you change or how would you design the perfect social equity program, if given the reigns?
Graham: At this time, there isn't one social equity program we'd say is succeeding. Often Oakland is cited when people want to call out a city getting it right. However, there is so much more that needs to be done. An ideal social equity program would be centered around the needs of each specific state and their communities but there should be a basic foundation upon which a robust program can be built.
Governments should have the best interests of their local entrepreneurs at heart. These are people who are of the community. They are more likely to grow and build there, bringing in much-needed revenue while employing community members. The U.S. is best served by moving away from a cookie-cutter view of social programs to one that is more individualized––social equity in cannabis is a good place to start.
Pryor: Every so-called social equity program in every state that has a social equity program needs tremendous help. I cannot point to one place that is getting it right 100 percent of the time but Oakland is an important lynchpin in the movement and needs to be protected and supported. There is a new bill in Washington HB-2870 led and written by Paula Sardinas that will focus on offering social equity licenses within the retail market. I am hopeful for that to materialize, given the support she has received from The Hollingsworth Family and the advisory opportunity that I had a chance to offer when it was in circulation earlier this year.
If people who work in the industry have additions to the Accountability List, where do they go about informing you?
Graham: Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll go from there. Again, all information must be factual and able to be supported.
Pryor: For right now they can email us at email@example.com and respond according to the fields in the list. And please note that we will also ask questions regarding their practices, too. We want full transparency. We owe that to everyone who wants to take part in the industry and knows that changes need to be made.Kassia Graham, Director of National Projects & Social Media at Cannaclusive.
What do you say to the people who may not be in support of The Accountability List, of "accountability" to this degree? To the "haters"?
Pryor: This is a calling in and not a call out. Let’s do the work together. Period.
Graham: We wouldn't call them haters. Rather they are people and organizations who have not arrived where they should be with regards to social equity. We hope that by working with us or others in the space they can join those doing the work to make the cannabis industry the blueprint for social equity. We want this industry's means and dedication to communities and consumers to be one that others will strive to emulate.
What are the steps beyond an action statement that consumers, companies need to be taking?
Pryor: 1. Conscious cannabis consumers need to demand that brands they support show real commitment to diversity and social justice; 2. including proven and continued inclusion within cannabis organizations; 3. hiring more executives, creatives, and developing more shareholders of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and marginalized communities; and 4. creating and implementing programs with monetary and in-kind support to help repair communities (mostly Black and Latinx) impacted by the War on Drugs.
If a company that you love to purchase products from isn’t doing anything to support equity and inclusion – ask them why and if they do not respond choose to shop or support brands that actually do.
Graham: We encourage consumers to go outside of their comfort zone. Explore the varied cannabis goods and organizations created by Black and non-Black people of color (NBPOC). D&I goes beyond race so we want to see those who are LGBTQ2IA+, disabled, of various socioeconomic backgrounds, different ages, sizes, and such in the industry. too. There is far too much out there to settle due to familiarity. Don't miss out.
In 2019 we joined forces with Almost Consulting's Kieryn Wang to create InclusiveBase. We were working towards the same goal so it made sense for us to collaborate. InclusiveBase is a list of Black and NBPOC plant-touching and ancillary businesses in cannabis. Many consume the plant to explore so why not apply that use to find out more about what goods and services are available on the market?