MJBizMag August 2020 - 8

FromtheEditor | Kate Lavin
Room at the Regulated Table
T
o call this a summer unlike any other would be
an understatement. From anxiety surrounding the
coronavirus to protests supporting the Black Lives Matter
movement, the past few months have felt charged in a way few
of us have experienced before.
It's certainly an intriguing time to dive into this month's
cover topic: how licensed cannabis companies can
compete against the illicit market.
From Gold to Green
Wall Street has dubbed the massive investor interest in
marijuana a " Green Rush " because of its similarities to the
1849 Gold Rush that made some intrepid Americans rich
while also developing the western United States. But like
that stampede for gold, which left as many prospectors
heartbroken as it made others rich, the sudden success of
the marijuana industry has left casualties in its path.
It is no secret that the war on drugs has had a
devastating effect on the Black community. Nearly 47% of
those arrested for drug-related offenses are Black or Latino,
according to the Drug Policy Alliance, even though these
groups comprise less than 32% of the U.S. population.
To achieve real equity, members of the illicit market
who want to own regulated cannabis companies need a
path to achieve their goals. Currently, business licenses
are prohibitively expensive. They are also scarce, largely
because of the federally illegal status of marijuana, which
gives state agencies the opportunity to act as gatekeepers
in a way that doesn't exist for other businesses.
Unfortunately, this division of haves and have-nots often
comes at the expense of entrepreneurs from socially
disadvantaged communities.
Investing in Diversity
Michele Roberts, executive director of the National
Basketball Players Association and a member of the board
of directors at Chicago-based Cresco Labs, told Marijuana
Business Magazine this month that part of her interest
in the cannabis industry is making sure that it offers
opportunities to communities of color. (See " NBA Union
Leader Joins Cresco Board " on page 100.)
" When cannabis decriminalization started to be taken
seriously, " Roberts said, " I remember thinking, 'Here we
go again. Are we going to be kept out of this industry (as
happened during the tech boom) because of an inability to
find investors?' "
Private investors and cannabis investment firms can help
fix this inequity by funding Black-owned enterprises.
6 Marijuana Business Magazine | August 2020
Another important change already taking place is
renewed interest in social equity programs that lower
the barrier to entry for people of color looking to obtain
cannabis business licenses. Illinois has gotten a lot of
attention in the past year for its social equity program, and
hopefully other states will look to its success as a model.
Making the Most of a License
Growing your regulated marijuana business does not
need to mean squashing the illicit cannabis market, which
many experts believe will continue to exist until federal
legalization occurs (see page 54).
Rather, business owners can devote their attention to
capitalizing on their legal status and what sets them apart.
Examples include leveraging the ability to advertise (page 46),
manufacturing products the illicit market doesn't offer
(page 59) and defending state-regulated marijuana brands
using unique, traceable packaging (page 62).
Embracing the consumers you have and finding new
ways to engage new ones is a legal business' best chance
for success.
Sincerely,
Kate Lavin
Marijuana
Business
Magazine
Editor

MJBizMag August 2020

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