Antiquated marijuana laws and institutional barriers have oppressed marginalized communities for far too long. Many in the cannabis industry are working hard to move the cannabis industry in the right direction, and many states and cannabis companies now incorporate social equity programs into their regulatory structure and operations. 

Recently, Abaca sat down (virtually) with industry experts to explore the state of social equity in cannabis. In case you missed it, we’ve compiled a few of the highlights.

Our round table discussion featured:

Eddie Armstrong – Cannabis Capital Group CEO & Chairman, and former Arkansas state representative and House minority leader

Mary Bailey – Last Prisoner Project Managing Director

Mike Malcom – WTF Media/WTF Consulting CEO and Founder

Dan Roda – Abaca CEO

“It is a sad truth that minority communities suffer the most from systemically unfair and often racially motivated or outdated marijuana laws. To reverse an injustice so deeply embedded in our laws, our economy and our communities, we need to take social justice and social equity very seriously, and put it into practice. There’s a lot of swift change that we’ve seen happen all over the country from NASCAR to entertainment to sports, but … what will we do before that …  to dive into the cannabis industry.” – Eddie Armstrong

“Just yesterday, someone sent me a picture of all the faces of all the dispensary owners here in Illinois. I knew, of course, they were all white, but seeing that visual really hit home … we know systemic racism exists, but it’s not until you see a picture of it, or a video of it in the case of George Floyd, that you really kind of understand what systematic racism really means on a deeper level than just saying that it exists.” – Mike Malcom

“How can we do better? How can cannabis companies really show up? Hire people who have a past, straight up. People who have felonies on their records from cannabis charges, they’re not criminals. They’re not bad people. They’re victims of unjust laws, and they need jobs. They’re quality, quality humans.” – Mary Bailey

“One of the big areas we can do better in is access to financial services. That does mean a bank account where you can simply deposit your cash and pay your vendors and write checks just like you would in any other normal conventional industry. But that also means to a great degree access to capital, because, you know, that is very, very much intertwined here. Those are just a couple of areas where I think the industry can do better, but they happen to be areas where I think we are positioned, perhaps to help. I know that’s where our attention and energy will be focused in really helping democratize access to financial services for the entire industry.” – Dan Roda

“I think it’s incumbent upon everybody, whether you’re in the industry, or you just like cannabis, or even if you don’t like cannabis, but you don’t like hypocrisy, to speak up when you see something that just flat out doesn’t make sense, because I think right now, in particular, it’s a great opportunity for us to share our experiences and share our perspectives. I think that’s needed more than anything right now. Again, that’s one thing that I just took upon myself to do is let’s say, “Okay. Well, I’m going to do … I don’t have a license … I can’t grow or sell cannabis, I can’t transport it, and I can’t process it. But I can talk about it. I can talk about it and I can talk about it from top to bottom. To whomever is willing to listen.” – Mike Malcom

“It’s not a time to be frustrated. There’s enough to frustrate us. There’s enough things going on. This is a new industry, and we’re not burdened by a lot of the old institutional baggage that often stymies the growth of new industry. The cannabis industry is booming. It’s got a lot of potential to create enormous wealth for individuals, for families and communities across our country to truly change the lives of many to come. It’s a crucial movement in our governments and our companies to really start shining a light on what social injustice looks like, what inequalities look like, and especially how we can change and move the needle in the cannabis industry space. Clearly, we have a long way to go as a society and as an industry, but I believe that this is a powerful example, for us to set and have others follow.’ – Eddie Armstrong

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