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What's the key to overcoming cannabis employment inequities?

The U.S. cannabis industry is exploding thanks to increased medical use and what experts say is the looming certainty of recreational cannabis legalization for adults. Valued at $13.2 billion in 2022, the legal market is projected to expand at an annual growth rate of 14.2% until the end of the decade.

For Black entrepreneurs, excitement over the drug’s rising acceptance is dulled by a lack of equal footing in the marketplace, said Kevin Greene, chief operating officer of the Cleveland School of Cannabis (CSC), a for-profit institution giving marginalized students career-oriented skills in the industry. Less than 2% of cannabis businesses are owned by this population, according to Leafly’s Jobs Report.

Greene attributed this inequality to the war on drugs, which had a disproportionate impact on Black people. Education is the only valid response to these ongoing inequities, said Greene and other Black Cleveland-area cannabis entrepreneurs.

As the country witnesses the birth of a new market, local stakeholders are intent on exposing underserved communities to every vital industry nuance. “We’ve been miseducated for too long,” said Greene. “What are the ancillary opportunities? Look at the full picture, and don’t box yourself in. The best you can do is look for gaps, then create products and services to fill those gaps.”


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