US: "Cannabis social equity programs aren't helping"

As cannabis legalization has swept through the U.S., nearly a dozen states have adopted programs intended to help marginalized groups enter the industry. But the so-called “social equity” initiatives have fallen far short of their goals, according to entrepreneurs they were designed to help.

Four Black founders of legalized cannabis businesses talked to The Business of Business to share their thoughts about why it’s been so hard for them to succeed in the industry, and why the popular programs do little to address the problems they face.

Legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use is a swiftly growing business in the U.S. It hit $17.5 billion in 2020 and was projected to more than double to $43 billion by 2025, according to Forbes.

Still only a tiny morsel of that business belongs to Black Americans — a group that has long been deemed to have been unfairly targeted by the War on Drugs. According to data gathered by Thinknum, of dispensaries listed on Leafly, only 26 of 9,487 locations across the U.S. are Black-owned. That’s fewer than 1%. Meanwhile Black people are more than four times as likely as white people in the U.S. to be arrested for cannabis violations, even though rates of cannabis use are about the same in both groups, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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