Ways To Attract More Diverse Cannabis Executives


The continuing growth of the cannabis industry has also brought with it more scrutiny regarding its operations. This is not a negative point at all. That’s because the more thought put into the standards and ethics of a business, the better it will thrive for all involved, in theory.

And, cannabis is definitely big business. According to Grand View Research, as cited in a Nerdwallet story, the cannabis industry in 2021 is valued at $33 billion, with an expected hike to $84 billion in the next seven years.

One aspect of the business that is ripe for change relates to how it represents (or doesn’t) people of color and LGBTQ individuals. Another statistic points to this disparity — a study from Marijuana Business Daily showed that 81 percent of cannabis business owners or founders were white. According to that same study, there were 5.7% Latino owners, 4.3% who were African-Americans and 2.4% who were Asian. On a more encouraging note, however, more than a third of senior-level jobs at cannabis companies are held by women, according to a Marijuana Business Daily survey.

Still, there’s work to be done to bring more diverse experiences and viewpoints to the table. The article published on Nerdwallet offers insight into how those at the top might work to diversify the industry and make it more inclusive for those who wish to make an impact. Here’s a look at some of the advice they offer on these themes.

Focus on your skill set

Gracie Morgan, director of operations for MedLeaf Delivery in California, points out that the industry demands keeping up with changing regulations and market forces in order to advance.

“To succeed, it’s really important to identify your ‘why’ beyond something monetary,” Morgan says. To that end, finding a way into the business with your skills, such as in accounting, HR or marketing, could be an entry point beyond outright ownership or sales. Roles such as this, the article states, also don’t have less expensive licensing requirements needed as ones strictly for direct cannabis ownership, which means there are fewer barriers for marginalized communities.

Know what’s allowed under the law
Becoming knowledgable about the regulations in your own state or municipality can mean a more lucrative and sustainable cannabis business. Morgan Fox, of the National Cannabis Industry Association, suggests speaking with a legal professional who knows what’s currently allowed under the law, or hiring a legal consultant to weigh in on the ever-changing landscape for regulations.

Be community-minded
While it’s a given that there are difficulties in raising capital for people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ, such groups might find opportunity in less traditional spaces. For example, there are many niche groups within industries that can help connect them with funding sources. This is very true of the cannabis community, and Morgan suggests an approach that elevates collaboration over competition. Find online groups and go to cannabis-oriented events to learn more about the industry and what sources of funding might be available.

Ways that the rules are changing for the better
There are encouraging signs that those in government are working with the industry to make cannabis businesses more diverse. In Washington State, its legislature passed a bill in April to help loosen restrictions to licensing cannabis businesses, including ones that put weight on prior convictions for marijuana possession. This move will no doubt help bring more disenfranchised leaders into the fold.

San Diego Is also looking at ways to cut prohibitive costs and remove some restrictions that have been considered limiting to people of color or LGBTQ individuals, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Such red tape includes zoning laws and permitting rules, according to some of the city council members. “At this point in time, the industry is fairly exclusive,” said Sean Elo-Rivera, who serves on City Council. “Only those with access to significant capital, attorneys and consultants have had the ability to compete for an operating permit.”

The path to becoming a cannabis executive
Experiencing a supportive community and benefiting from concerted efforts with respect to inclusion can break down barriers for aspiring cannabis executives who come from marginalized communities. Courtney Davis, director of public affairs for the Marijuana Matters group, believes it can be a venue that offers great emotional and career support. “Be bold and realize that you do have support in this industry,” she says.

Y Scouts is also poised to bolster a business that wants to strengthen its diversity. Specifically, we have a Leadership Community whose purpose is find cannabis executives that can have an impact on it, as well as on society in general.

The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and finding cannabis executives who thrive with change, innovation, regulation and challenges are what businesses are seeking. To find out more about we can help, go to our website.