How to save cannabis equity

By Alex Halperin
Feb 3, 2022
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Former WeedWeek California editor Donnell Alexander wrote a four-part series for Capital & Main on why cannabis equity has failed, and what might save it. 

The series argues that meaningful cannabis equity remains an opt-in proposition for companies. Parts one and two discuss the efforts of farmer Howard Gunn to win Florida’s one, not-yet-awarded, license reserved for a Black farmer in a state dominated by MSO Trulieve and other big companies.

In the country’s largest MED only market, Alexander writes, “once you move past storefront workers and delivery people…you’ll find slightly more Black representation than you saw in the Jan. 6 riot.”

Even state governments that want to help, aren’t doing much:

  • Perceived equity leader California set aside $55M for its grant program in 2021. State sales projections for this year are $5B.
  • Colorado, which did $2.2B in cannabis revenue 2021, spent $4M on equity programs.
  • “What some Black activists call ‘sharecropper’ statutes are standard in current social equity policy. These rules allow large companies access to lusted-after priority licensing if they agree to support financially or via incubation a social equity entrepreneur.”

Part Three of the series looks at what business is like for hustlers still scrambling in the illegal market. 

For the final installment, Alexander talks to LOWD CEO Jesce Horton about  the rocky road ahead for Black cannabis entrepreneurs:

  • “The number of Black weed entrepreneurs who can go to a parent for a $30,000 cannabis investment [like Horton did] is low. The paradox is, unless the entrepreneurs have famous rapper money, landlords aren’t interested in them.”

The series ends with a set of six recommendations for bringing real equity to cannabis. None, in this writer’s opinion, is especially likely.

Read the whole series.