artwork by @mattblease
Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, Pride – these movements have ignited a fight for diversity and inclusion. Marginalized communities and their allies have applied pressure on higher education, government and politics, and businesses alike to ask one central question: how can we create equitable spaces in society to honor all identities?
The melanated history of the cannabis plant and the key players involved in some of its earliest legalization fights create an obligation for everyone in the cannabis industry to ask this question of themselves and of every aspect of their cannabis business.
As a cannabis marketing agency, it means building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into all processes, from crafting culturally appropriate brands and staying true to our values on social media to creating inclusive content and marketing strategies.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for brands to not only make a statement, but show their customers their core values are rooted in DEI through action.
What is diversity, equity, and inclusion?
The terms diversity, equity, and inclusion are often used interchangeably, but they have some very differences that should be understood to have better conversations around creating change:
Diversity is all the ways in which people differ; it’s what makes us all unique with varying perspectives, experiences, preferences, and so on. This looks like age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.
Equity is defined as fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for people while taking into account their diversity. This is an important distinction from “equality,” which is defined as the quality or state of having the same rights, social status, etc.
Inclusion is putting diversity into action by including or involving people from a range of backgrounds. In practice, this looks like creating equitable opportunities, providing resources, and developing policies for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
What does diversity, equity, and inclusion look like in the cannabis industry?
A diverse cannabis industry is one that serves and benefits multiple communities, business owners, and consumers.
An equitable cannabis industry is one that represents marginalized communities in leadership roles: founders, owners, CEOs, board members, investors, and so on.
An inclusive cannabis industry is one that provides marginalized communities with ownership opportunities, builds businesses that give back to underserved populations, actively fights for individuals and communities harmed by the War on Drugs and the stigmas and stereotypes around cannabis, and commits to creating businesses where all identities are honored.
Although these are the ideal end results, we can all play a part in moving towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive cannabis industry. Education and activism are key components to this fight, and with that comes a responsibility to understand the nuances around the discussion.
Movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate are rooted in racial identity. Pride and Women’s Rights are rooted in gender and sexuality. However, when you are out and about, living your real life, you’ll find that these identities intersect with one another: a Black Woman, a Gay Asian Man, etc.
Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in a paper in 1989, is defined as:
“the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”
So, what does this have to do with cannabis? Cannabis users are from all walks of life. Yet, the plant itself faces a stigma of its own, one that translates to any who use it.
In other words, the cannabis industry is serving individuals who experience multiple layers of oppression and prejudice. Acknowledging this in your business model, hiring and selling practices, and even marketing tactics will allow you to create a safe space and deeper human connection with your employees and customers.
artwork by @reubendangoor
The Need for Inclusive Marketing in Cannabis
It is easy for brands to post a black square on Instagram or participate in hashtag support for massive social movements. However, it is important to go beyond these publicity measures and incorporate DEI into your brand’s core values in all respects.
An estimated 40,000 Americans are still incarcerated for cannabis-related charges, despite the fact that there is a booming legal cannabis industry which many are profiting from. In fact, according to the ACLU, despite the roughly equal usage rates, Black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for the same cannabis charges.
Take into account the lack of diversity in leadership roles in the industry and it becomes crystal clear: the cannabis industry has a duty to fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
And that means playing an active role in educating, spreading awareness, and taking action for this cause. Doing so translates into being intentional from the beginning stages of brand building to the everyday processes of marketing campaigns and content creation.
Explore our Diversity & Inclusion blogs to read more about how you can practice inclusive marketing for your cannabis brand.