The Good News – What DEI Needs to Succeed

Have you ever lit a joint without fire? (play along with an old school cannabis lover) You could have the finest flower perfectly rolled, but without some sort of flame…no smoke to be had. I like to think of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as that beautiful doobie, waiting to be shared as medicine for all. The people are gathered ‘round, eager to participate. But something is missing. Antiracism is the fire that ignites DEI. Doesn’t matter how many joints we roll…no one is smoking without that fire. 

Now that we’ve enjoyed a little metaphor; let’s break down what it means for cannabis businesses. It means our industry is still 97% white owned, with decreasing numbers of women, and low LGBTQIA+ representation. Now that just doesn’t make sense when the global DEI budget is expected to grow from $7.5 to $15.4 billion by 2026. In fact it’s bordering on insanity. You know, doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. 

DEI cannot achieve what it has valiantly set out to accomplish. Standard DEI doesn’t touch the root cause of inequity and exclusion-systemic racism. White people are naturally not inclined to talk about racism in the same way people know not to play with fire. We don’t want to get hurt. Addressing racism triggers the same brain response you’d feel if your house was on fire; fight, flight, or freeze. Please note, BIPOC people cannot avoid being harmed by systemic racism and experience a different form of racialized trauma

Ineffective DEI deprives our industry of equity and costs us both money and time. Diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets, produce up to 41% higher revenue, and are 35% more likely to outperform competitors. Speaking of competition, keep in mind that 66% of Gen-Z consumers would switch to a brand committed to purpose. Gen-Z women are the fastest growing cannabis consumers. 

Even a brand committed to DEI can easily miss the mark on expressing and embodying their purpose without antiracism. Here’s a quick list of how antiracism boosts DEI, based on Cannabis Doing Good’s Antiracism Self-Assessment for Cannabusinesses. 

  • Company Commitments: Creates a baseline of racial equity in your mission, vision and values which subsequently addresses equity based on gender, age, sexual orientation, and differently abled people.
  • Hiring, Recruitment and Retention: Creates safe pathways for BIPOC to enter, stay, and lead your organization? 
  • Marketing and Communications: Paves the way for effective, authentic marketing that doesn’t culture vulture BIPOC communities. 
  • Community Engagement: Optimizes engagement to support Black and brown communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Policy: Addresses the 48,000 collateral damage laws that still target Black communities today. 

We live in an era full of resources that harness the transformative fire of antiracism work. I personally recommend utilizing a variety of free tools and partnering with experts like Cannabis Doing GoodThe Gemini Group, Regan Byrd Consulting, Zoe Williams, and Allies to Abolitionists (this list is not at all exhaustive). Antiracist DEI benefits people, brands, and businesses.  I’ll smoke to that.

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