Grow, Gift, Repair

Cannabis industry mostly white as diversity plans draw scrutiny

Saskia VannJames, president of the nonprofit Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, said diversity plans need to first be re-configured to benefit the groups most disproportionately harmed by the U.S. war on drugs. Calling for a percentage of “women” to be hired treats white women the same as Black or indigenous women while they’ve had drastically different historical experiences from the war on drugs, according to VannJames.

Hiring goals should be focused on groups that the data shows were most targeted, VannJames said. But only requiring hiring percentages of different genders and ethnicities also falls far short of the type of equity needed in a business, which also includes having diversity within every level of management, giving workers a voice within the governing structure of an organization, and also committing to equitable wages for people throughout an organization, according to VannJames.

“The CCC has that capability,” VannJames said in an interview, referring to the Cannabis Control Commission. “We need them to imagine and commit to work. I do believe with our new commissioners we have that opportunity. We have to examine what we’re doing here. And (ask) why is the cannabis industry looking like the rest of our state — segregated.”