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Got questions about social equity in the cannabis industry? Great! Marijuana Matters is here to break it down for you. 

What is social equity? 

Social equity is a commitment to fairness and justice. It addresses the underlying systemic inequalities that make certain resources less accessible to vulnerable populations. 

What is social equity in cannabis?

Marijuana Matters defines social equity in the cannabis industry this way:  

Social equity is the equitable distribution of resources and services by all public serving institutions to promote and ensure fair and equitable access to opportunities and outcomes for individuals from and in communities historically and disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. 

Policy makers and businesses can begin to engage in the process of social equity by questioning how policies, legislation, and practices benefit or harm communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. 

This process only works if it is centered around individuals who make up these communities. Decision-making power should be given to those disadvantaged by structural oppression. This includes individuals who are Black, Brown, and/or LGBTQ. 

Social equity results in the implementation of policies, legislation, and practices that equip everyone with the tools and support they need to access fair outcomes in employment, ownership, and access to patient care in cannabis. 

What does the war on drugs have to do with social equity in the cannabis industry? 

Failed war on drugs policies have devastated communities made up of mostly Black and Brown people. 

Black people are disproportionately arrested for cannabis possession even though cannabis use among Black and white people is almost the same. This entanglement into the criminal justice system has many long-term effects, or collateral consequences, that impede the ability to generate wealth. 

Though the criminalization of cannabis has targeted communities of color, the legalized cannabis industry is dominated by white men. Addressing social equity in the public and private segments of the cannabis industry is an important step toward righting the wrongs caused by racist and xenophobic cannabis prohibition. 

How does Marijuana Matters work to create social equity in the cannabis space? 

Marijuana Matters is a non-profit that addresses the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on historically disadvantaged communities through three pillars:

  • Advocacy. M2 works with policy makers to incorporate inclusive language in cannabis-related legislation. 
  • Entrepreneurship. M2 supports entrepreneurs negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis by providing them with capital, training, and mentorship. 
  • Education. M2 educates cannabis stakeholders about the impact of cannabis laws in their jurisdictions. 

Cannabis legalization is here to stay. Through beneficial partnerships, M2 works to tap the massive economic potential of regulated cannabis to repair what has been dismantled, restore what has been destroyed, and reclaim what has been displaced.

Is social equity necessary? 

Social equity ensures that everyone has fair access to economic opportunities and outcomes. It doesn’t give anyone a leg up. Rather, it gives people who have been kept out of the room for so long a seat at the table. 

The education gaps, evictions, felony disenfranchisement, and employment restrictions resulting from cannabis arrests and convictions have disproportionately impacted Black communities. These barriers to wealth and autonomy are added onto layers of damage created by structural racism. 

This is why social equity is necessary. Structural racism gives Black Americans broken tools while demanding a winning performance. Social equity repairs the tools and confronts the reasons why those tools were broken to begin with. 

What do social equity cannabis programs do?

Social equity cannabis programs should do at least these four things:

  1. Center the experiences of those most harmed by the war on drugs. 
  2. Create equity in marketplace access. 
  3. Improve economic conditions for the individuals and communities most impacted by the war on drugs. 
  4. Monitor and hold systems accountable to a social equity framework at every level. 

The needs of each community are diverse. It is crucial that policy makers and businesses center community-specific and community-led efforts in order to create the most equitable policies. 

Who benefits from social equity? 


The individuals and communities most damaged by the war on drugs benefit from social equity programs that address the economic and health disparities they face. 

Government institutions earn their constituents’ trust when they undo bigoted policies by placing equity at the center of their policymaking. 

Businesses benefit from embracing social equity by differentiating themselves from the competition. Consumers want to choose brands that are committed to making real, measurable change. 

Implementing social equity will not necessarily feel comfortable. That is because we aren’t used to it. American business and government practices are historically designed to keep power in the hands of white men. Social equity broadens access to this power. 

What are the barriers to social equity in cannabis? 

Barriers exist at the community, public, and private level to achieving social equity in the cannabis industry. These barriers include:

  • Cannabis prohibition 
  • Exclusion of those with criminal histories 
  • A lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion at every level in both public and private sectors 
  • The absence of community members most impacted by the war on drugs during decision-making 
  • A lack of funding from tax revenues and fees addressing the harms created by the war on drugs 
  • A lack of access to capital for small businesses, particularly those founded by disproportionately impacted individuals  
  • A lack of accountability 

Correcting these equity gaps is a complex task that must be engaged for the long-term. But when policy makers and corporations let the principles of social equity guide them, they are able to tap into the myriad of resources available in every community to get it done.  

How can I support Marijuana Matters?

Here are three things you can do right now to support M2:

  1. Take our survey. We are using the results from our Social Equity First survey to create a 90-day plan for the cannabis community. 
  2. Connect with us. Follow us on InstagramMediumTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn, and Facebook
  3. Donate. We use our Forty Acres and a Mule Fund to guarantee the highest ROI: an educated public on social equity, empowered community, and ecosystem of entrepreneurs from communities of color. 

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