Understanding social equity in cannabis

Equity is “the support given to people to achieve fairness” and social equity is the support we give to others in our society to achieve that fairness. The scope of that support is based on what different groups of people need to live freely or succeed.

What is social equity in cannabis?

Equity can be discussed as a unit of ownership in a cannabis business, a share of resources in relation to the cannabis business-at-large, or the administration of rights, funding, licenses, and privileges to a cannabis-adjacent group or individual.

Social equity has various definitions, but in marijuana policy specifically, the term refers to attempts to acknowledge the harm done by the war on drugs to certain communities—most often Black and brown communities—and the various programs and provisions intended to address that harm.

Shaleen Title, Fair and Square: How to Effectively Incorporate Social Equity into Cannabis Laws and Regulations, 2021.

There are many ways that social equity can be distributed or demonstrated in cannabis:

  • Elimination of homophobic, transphobic, or racist policy and practice from governing bodies
  • Financial or legal support of under-represented entrepreneurs
  • Minority-focused licensing and job creation
  • Release of non-violent cannabis prisoners
  • Investment of cannabis revenues into local communities
  • Support of criminal justice reform

How can I promote social equity in cannabis?

Now that you know what social equity is, you can begin to take action. After all, social equity requires real action from real people like you and me. You can begin by recognizing the issues that stand in front of us today.

Examine the damage done by the war on drugs, the wide profitability gap between white and non-white people in the cannabis industry, how little you know about LGBTQIA+ cannabis needs or the disparate realities faced by people of color and their white cannabis-loving counterparts.

Once you understand one or more of the problems we face, think about what you can do to make things better for those who have gotten the short end of the stick.  

Support queer or minority-owned brands with your money or your social media shares. Find out if your state has a social equity program or advocate for the creation of one. Help free cannabis prisoners who are in jail for the doing same thing you do from the comfort of your home.

You can help free America’s cannabis prisoners. Here’s how

You don’t have to be wealthy or business-savvy to help increase social equity in cannabis. You can do a lot by listening to underrepresented voices and helping them in ways that put money in their pocket and food on their table.  

Cannabis social equity and transformative justice

We don’t just have a gap to close in cannabis. We have a gap that needs be closed and stay shut.By taking an active role in providing the cannabis community with social equity, we help provide transformative justice. This form of justice is intended to fundamentally change systems that uphold our cannabis laws and influence the way society views cannabis consumers.

As champions of transformative justice, we agree to promote the needs of the community over the needs of capitalism, provide a safer environment for all people who enjoy cannabis, create real opportunities for those who previously did not have them, and commit to doing things better than we have before.

A Black cannabis worker inspects a flower bud in this image that opens the Leafly white paper Seeds of Change 2021 as a .pdf.
Click the image to open the Leafly white paper Seeds of Change 2021 as a .pdf.

We have the chance to build an equitable and diverse cannabis industry. But we have to start now.