Opinion by: Patricia Edwards, Lionheart Strategy International. 

“ Cultural Competency will increase the value of your legal cannabis venture.”

Introduction

Cannabis has exploded onto the global marketplace with an unbelievable  opportunity to become the number one cash crop in the world! From being a prohibited Schedule I Class offense to a rapidly progressing essential industry that is providing transformative and sustainable solutions; hemp continually proves its resiliency and increasing value. Confusion often arises with the average consumers inability to differentiate between industrial hemp and legal marijuana- the truth is there is only one main difference which is the amount of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) contained in the plant. 

Industrial hemp is classified as a cannabis sativa plant that produces less than .03% THC. THC is a cannabinoid  which can produce mind altering effects. CBD, also a cannabinoid, on the other hand provides soothing and alternative relief effects without the psychoactive impact..  While the debate for the value and necessity of THC based products is still ongoing – HEMP IS HOT and here to stay! Over 150,000 acres of hemp are currently spread across the U.S., which can be shocking considering that it wasn’t until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that industrial hemp was fully legalized across the country. With its passage, a flood of hope and light has emerged for first generational wealth opportunities. Within this burgeoning opportunity, it is also inherent to the bottom line success of the entire legal cannabis pipeline that new majority leaders are integrated at every stage of development of the value chain.

New Majority is Championing the Underserved and Underrepresented

New Majority, is a colloquial reference to the ever-growing population of black, latinx, immigrants, women, lgbtq, veterans and additional underserved populations that now outnumber the traditional status quo of white males.  From developing opportunity zones, to organizing mass developments in traditionally underserved areas, to the massive global outcry from the highly publicized murder of George M Flyod- it is no longer acceptable to create substandard measures for your product, service, initiative or campaign that is not all encompassing and focused on inclusion and visible equality for all.  According to Marijuana Moment, as of January 16, 2020; there were 975 cannabis-related bills moving through state legislatures and Congress for 2020 sessions. We must not allow any measures to be created that are not focused on socio-economic sustainability for new majority populations across the U.S.

In looking at immediate solutions that industrial hemp can impact – we can start with the devastation caused by Covid-19  in the U.S. alone. According to the COVID Racial Tracker, a joint project of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project – based on the census bureau data on African Americans, deaths from Covid-19 are 2x greater than the percentage estimated based on size of population. Additionally, in Washington, D.C., and 42 other states Hispanics/Latinos have been attributed a greater share of confirmed cases than estimated based on the size of the population. From sustainable solutions to alternative medicines that can aid in symptom relief from healthcare conditions – hemp can assist in reducing the disparity between preventative tools and resources and underrepresented populations across the globe.

In order to ensure that issues such as the aforementioned are at the forefront of legal cannabis conversations; it is imperative to incorporate leadership development, provide funding for innovative solutions and create collaborative forums for ecosystem development and advancing participation from new majority communities.  Unfortunately African-American, Latinx and additional populations have continuously faced calamity, strife and disproportionate poverty in comparison to their white counterparts. Due to this, while the industrial hemp mainstream impact may be in question, the resiliency required to navigate the tough times require individuals that can make complicated decisions under duress. The tough decisions of today provide the viable solutions for tomorrow. Providing opportunities to individuals with diverse skill sets, that represent different demographics and thereby potential  use-cases for what issues hemp can solve – will invariably accelerate the success of essential legal cannabis companies during our continued global pandemic and beyond. We must create order in the chaotic and disrupted supply chain that has arisen  due to conflicting legislation, missed deadlines and disconnected interoperability in virtual networks.

Diversity in Industrial Hemp Development

There are over 25,000+ use cases for industrial hemp. From hemp textiles, to fiber, CBD extraction, for alternative medicine and beauty products and the assortment of technical developments that hemp can advance – it is one of the most versatile plants on the planet. Hemp is recyclable, reusable and biodegradable.  Hemp textiles for instance, can provide alternative materials  to make everything from sheets, towels, curtains and clothing to masks and gloves that first responders wear.  Fabric made from hemp elements have demonstrated natural resistance to bacteria and are able to kill strains of communicable diseases like staph on its surface. These materials can additionally serve as preventative measures to be worn by individuals highly predisposed to immunity deficiencies against Covid-19 and additional health threats.  While many farming veterans are running away from cultivation and processing opportunities due to impact from Covid-19 – there is a growing demand for hemp fiber especially on the east coast and southeastern regions where auto manufacturing plants are located.  Innovation from alternative industry leaders who can apply new directives, introduce turn key solutions from digital integrations and identify gaps in the insufficient supply chain could begin with hiring diverse talent from multifaceted demographics and backgrounds.

Policy & Programming

Identifying convoluted policy that prevents legal cannabis companies from accessing relief due to inconsistent and partial legislation attributed to the sector, is another huge opportunity for diversity and inclusion to be beneficially implemented. Recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on a digital campaign from Twitter to posting  appearances at local Kentucky factories; in order to reiterate the importance of hemp-derived products from masks to sanitizers that can be made in the U.S. However, industrial hemp and CBD product based companies across the nation were denied access to essential goods like PPE’s that were being disseminated by a federal program, which the companies cannot access due to the federal standing of statewide legal cannabis.  

Harmony is committed to advocating support for legal cannabis companies and introducing socio-economic opportunities to new majority constituents across the nation and throughout the diaspora to alter the current representation in the industry globally. 

Harmony Supports National Efforts to Create Social & Economic Sustainability for New Majority Constituents Across the Globe

We have identified four main areas that are consistent with the national efforts of legal cannabis trade associations and coalitions to advance the participation, continued education and business ownership for black, latinx and additional new majority citizens in the US and across the diaspora.

  1. Cannabis Social & Economic Sustainability Pillars for New Majority Groups across the diaspora
  • Dedicate Public Private/Partnerships at local, federal and global levels in order to create best in class practices and accessible deadlines and policy to prevent unnecessary expenditures and legal infractions due to imbalanced organizational structure
    • Firms like New Frontier Data and BDS Analytics should have support and capital in order to collect and analyze socio-economic data 
      • Associations would be able to rank top companies dedicated to ensuring new majority representation
      • Provide examples of organizational culture structure, community outreach, workforce development that successfully advances your bottom line  with inclusion and diversity as core pillars 
      • Highlight gaps in access to information, funding, growth and expansion opportunities and collaborative tools for new majority legal cannabis leaders
  1. Ensure organizations create open community cultures that attract, engage and retain new majority groups of best in class employees, strategic alliances and community development partners 
  • Diverse and inclusive workforces demonstrate 1.12x more discretionary effort, 1.19x greater intent to stay, 1.57x more collaboration among teams, and 1.42x greater team commitment (i.e., higher levels of employee engagement, which is the core driver of business productivity). – CEB Inc. (formerly Corporate Executive Board), 2018
  • Companies with at least one female board member had a return on equity of 14.1 percent over the past nine years, greater than the 11.2 percent for those without any women. The stock valuations are also higher for gender diverse boards versus all-male boards. – Source: Credit Suisse Group, 2018
  1. Enable organizations to contribute, create and actualize research and data inputs that provide affable information that innovation and advanced bottom lines occur with inclusive environments and talent from diverse backgrounds
  • Gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to financially outperform non-gender diverse companies (i.e., have financial returns above their respective national industry medians). And ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to financially outperform. – Source: McKinsey & Company, 2018
  1. Alter the format, focus and forum of discussion on US war on drugs and the disproportionate ratio of blacks and latinos that are incarcerated due to misclassified nonviolent cannabis related offenses 
  • FBI data reveals that 659,700 cannabis-related arrests occurred in 2017, comprising 40% of all reported U.S. drug arrests. This was nearly 12,000 more cannabis arrests than were made in 2016 (which, in turn, saw an increase from 2015). Studies show that PoC are arrested for cannabis crimes at 4x the rate of whites despite the fact that PoC consume cannabis at roughly the same percentage rate as whites.

ALLYSHIP and ADVOCACY will ADVANCE INDUSTRIAL HEMP SUCCESS 

Based on a report from Marijuana Business Daily in 2017 – only 17 percent of cannabis-related businesses employ minorities in an executive position. Clearly there is a glaring opportunity for leadership development and upward mobility traction that should be created for new majority businesses. 

There are a number of organizations that have formed over the last five to ten years that are committed to advocating for traditionally underrepresented and marginalized communities that could transform their wealth building opportunities by getting involved in the legal cannabis industry. Leaders like Cassandra Farrington, CEO and Co-Founder of MJBiz Daily have led the charge on creating collaborative portals and disseminating information on how individuals can obtain licenses, certifications and access to growth opportunities.  “The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill is a huge milestone for the hemp industry, and will in turn impact the entire cannabis industry. The organizations working toward normalcy and professional advancement in the hemp space will play a key role this year in laying the foundation to a healthy, sustainable industry going forward. Our industry giveback program supports Hemp Industries Association and the National Hemp Association” stated Farrington.  Upon the launch of her program, Cassandra went on to say: “We hope to continue to increase our support to these and to new groups likely to become established in coming years.” The Industry Giveback Program aims to foster growth through inclusion and professional development. “The more inclusive and educated the cannabis industry becomes, the stronger it will be today and in the future.” The program included  the Minority Cannabis Business Association, Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Inc., and the National Cannabis Bar Association.

Though the overall future of the global legal cannabis industry remains in question, the posterity of the opportunities presented from industrial hemp far outweigh the inclination to resist entering a transformative industry.  With a focus on new majority inclusion, diversity in hemp cultivation and processing, continuous advocacy for social and economic sustainability policy and programming for all and existing leadership opening pathways to advance new innovative and disruptive leaders from multifaceted demographics – cultural competency can accelerate the currency and overall bottomline of your legal cannabis venture. 

Patricia (PE) Edwards, Lionheart Strategy International

For more information on organizations leading the charge for cultural competency and equality in Legal Cannabis see below: 

The National Cannabis Industry Association 

  • The national trade association that represents thousands of businesses involved in the state-legal cannabis industry.

Website: https://thecannabisindustry.org/

Leadership: Aaron Smith, Executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association

Quote: “As we replace prohibition with regulated cannabis programs, it’s important that the communities most adversely impacted by the disastrous war on marijuana have access to the new economic opportunities of the post-prohibition era. Policymakers across the country should look to this model ordinance as the framework for ensuring that their local cannabis market is inclusive and reflective of the broader community.”

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) 

  • is the first non profit business league created specifically to strengthen the cannabis industry by increasing diversity. The MCBA’s mission is to create equal access and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses and their patients & consumers, by designing policy considerations, social programming and outreach initiatives to achieve equity for the communities most affected by the war on drugs.

Website: https://minoritycannabis.org/who-we-are/

Leadership: Jesce Horton, MCBA Co-founder 

Quote: “TOGETHER, WE ARE MORE POWERFUL. TOGETHER, WE WILL CREATE NOT ANOTHER INDUSTRY BUT A BETTER INDUSTRY.”

Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Inc

  • The organization was established in May 2016 and currently has 27 state directors throughout the country including a Northern California chapter based in Oakland. M4MM’s mission is focused on providing advocacy, outreach, research, and training as it relates to the business, social reform, public policy, and health /wellness in the cannabis industry.

Website: https://minorities4medicalmarijuana.org/

Leadership: Roz McCarthy Founder & CEO 

Quote: “What I’m trying to bring to the table, not only for the public, but more importantly to our cannabis community and industry, is that we’re no different than the Nikes, the Deltas, the Uniteds, the Coca-Colas, and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. And it should be even more so for cannabis, because this industry was built on the backs of black and brown people who have gone to jail. They were the pioneers. They were the ones that basically took the risk and said, “Hey, I want to try to feed my family.” It was illegal, but that whole model of doing business is not far from what you see now in regard to business.”

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