The successful founders in this burgeoning new industry should build social responsibility and racial justice into their business plans: ”If you’re making billions or millions of dollars a year, then what is some small percentage of your profits to remedy this terrible evil that preceded your rise to wealth and riches?” he asked. “If you’re profiting off something that at some point was illegal and led to masses of black and brown people being incarcerated, being deported, having their children taken away, losing employment opportunities, all these types of things, then yes, I think you have a responsibility to repair that, and try and fix that situation.”
But what about if you’re just a consumer of legal cannabis? What responsibilities do you have, and how can you help?
Be a demanding shopper
Now that many shoppers pay as much attention to the origin stories of their goods as the quality, it’s easy to imagine a Whole-Foods-like ethical labeling scale or a Patagonia-ish 1% for the Planet badge on products sold by cannabis companies taking responsibility for social justice. But that’s still far from a reality.
In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to tell cannabis companies they care about these issues. However awkward it might seem to ask the manager of a dispensary if their business is sponsoring job fairs or expungement clinics, or making efforts to hire from communities affected by racist policing, these are not unreasonable questions—just as it wouldn’t be outlandish to ask a grocer why they don’t carry free-range eggs, or fair-trade coffee.
“We all have some modicum or measure of privilege that we can take advantage of … and use that to help somebody in a less fortunate situation,” said Southerland.
And it goes beyond shopping. If you know someone who owns a small business—cannabis-related or not—”talk to them about their hiring practices,” Southerland said. “Maybe they should not automatically foreclose a job opportunity to someone who has a prior criminal conviction for some nonviolent drug offense.”
“Even small things like that can go a long way,” said Southerland.