March Nuvolution Lunch & Learn: Diversity in the Cannabis Space

From the port city of Durban to the mountains of Afghanistan the cannabis plant knows no borders. From the shores of Jamaica to the Arctic Circle individuals from every culture and walk of life have enjoyed cannabis through the years. The diversity the cannabis culture offers is unparalleled, however, the cannabis industry has struggled to maintain what the culture has naturally provided for centuries.

Just 80 years ago when the MJ Tax Act of 1937 was implemented a prohibition and attempted eradication of cannabis began in the United States and grew like weeds around the globes. Since then minorities including African Americans and Latinos have been arrested at a disproportional rate and have faced the consequences of this war. This is despite the fact that all nationalities consume cannabis at a similar rate.

Unfortunately, thanks to prohibition, many of the men and women that have kept the plant thriving in the underground subculture for decades can not easily enter the legal cannabis market. This is due to the criminal records they now possess. Many of which are for “crimes” that are now completely legal under state laws. Luckily, the topic of diversity in the cannabis industry is becoming an issue at the forefront for many organizations throughout the community.

Diversity isn’t just about ethnicity and race either. Throughout the cannabis culture you will find individuals of diverse sexual orientations and preferences, various gender identities, as well as diverse spiritual and religious beliefs. Offering the same diversity throughout the cannabis industry workforce that the culture possesses is something that is crucial to the success of businesses in this space.


A Diversity Q&A with Alexis Stratton; Writer, Editor, and Educator

Tomorrow on March 15th you can attend a Lunch and Learn event at the Nuvolution Community Center in Denver Colorado covering the topic of diversity. I had the opportunity to speak with Alexis Stratton who will be the keynote speaker at the event. You can find my Q&A with Alexis below.

Why do you feel diversity within the cannabis space is crucial?

Diversity within all spaces, including the cannabis space, is important for so many reasons. For example, a diverse staff ensures that different worldviews and perspectives are at the table, which can improve problem-solving, increase creativity, and increase a company’s reach within the communities they serve. And by taking the necessary steps to improve your reach among populations that the cannabis industry has traditionally struggled to serve, you can grow your business into you a valuable and trusted community partner–while also ensuring that your awesome products or services are getting to populations that want or need them. So, if increasing the reach and improving the reputation of your business matters to you, cultivating your understanding of and working with diverse populations is one huge step you can take to make that happen.

What are some suggestions that you have for cannabis businesses to ensure diversity of all kinds throughout their workforce?

There are a few first steps that cannabis businesses can take to ensure diversity throughout their workforce. The first is to honestly assess what your business is doing well and what it could be doing better in terms of diversity: Where are you excelling and where are you struggling? Who is at the table, and who is missing from the table?

Second, once you figure out some of your blind spots and growth points, get to work fixing them. Mandate cultural competency training for staff at all levels, from the CEO to the frontline folks; ensure that you have a non-discrimination policy (for staff and customers) that includes a wide range of identities (and know what to do to enforce it); and think about creative ways you can build your relationship with diverse communities (for example, show your support of the LGBTQ community by marching in a Pride parade). Then, when you advertise your positions, make sure you’re posting to job boards, professional organizations, and among other places and spaces that represent the diverse communities you want to recruit from.

But diversifying your staff won’t happen overnight: Just because you host a training or make a non-discrimination policy doesn’t mean a diverse team will come flocking to you. However, by taking these small steps forward, you can begin cultivating your workplace into a space where people of all identities might feel welcome–and will come join you.

Diversity to many is much more than just race, ethnicity or gender. Why do you feel it is important to have diversity of all types throughout the cannabis space?

Each of us experiences multiple, intersecting identities at the same time. I’m a queer, white, middle-class, non-disabled person, and because of each of these identities, I experience privileges and oppressions simultaneously.

As a queer person, I’m consistently confronted with heteronormativity (the assumption that everyone–including myself–is heterosexual) in the media, doctor’s offices, and so on–and sometimes I don’t feel welcome in certain places or spaces because of this. In contrast, because I don’t have any physical disabilities, I never have to think about if a restaurant has accessible parking or if the store or restaurant I’m going to has an elevator or wide enough doors for a wheelchair–which is a privilege.

But no matter which identities I have, they end up affecting my ability to move through the world, access spaces and places, and feel welcome or unwelcome. As the cannabis industry–and most businesses–seek to reach a greater breadth and depth of clients and customers, there may be whole groups of people you’re unintentionally excluding because you haven’t thought through what barriers they might face when accessing your spaces and places. So, as you work to increase your reach and be better community partners, making sure you’re not exclusive to only certain races, classes, genders, sexual orientations, and so on, is super important.

What do you feel is the largest obstacle preventing diversity within the cannabis industry?

A lot of businesses want to increase the diversity of their staff and customers or clients, but they often don’t know where to begin. They don’t realize their own biases, and they don’t notice what barriers might stand in the way of someone accessing their product or applying to work at their company. So a first step to improving diversity in your staff and among your clients is to look inward. Start by asking yourself questions such as;

  • What blind spots do you have (as an individual and as a business)?
  • What groups and cultures are you familiar with, and which ones are you less familiar or comfortable with?
  • What can you do to become more familiar or more comfortable?

You don’t know what you don’t know, so the best first step is to have some cultural humility, recognize your current limitations, and take steps to learn more about the different populations you want to reach.

Nuvolution Logo

A Diversity Q&A with Anne Marie Doyle of Nuvolution

Anne Marie Doyle is the Executive Director of Nuvolution. Nuvolution is a nonprofit organization with a vision of connecting community and industry through social responsibility. The mission of Nuvolution is to celebrate a lifestyle evolution through building a community that empowers volunteerism, education, and cultivating leaders.   I had a chance to speak with Anne regarding the topic of diversity within the cannabis space. You can find our Q&A below.

Why do you feel diversity within the cannabis space is crucial?

At Nuvolution we believe that a lack of diversity limits conversations.  Diversity, of the Cannabis plant and the community, is one of our core values. Industrial Hemp, Medical Cannabis, and Recreational Cannabis all identify as Cannabis Sativa L.

The strength of our community comes from diverse identities including population, ethnic, gender, age, geography, and skills. Any person or organization that aligns with our vision, mission, and values is encouraged to come in and have a seat at the community table allowing different identities to be heard and a common dialogue to be created.

What are some suggestions that you have for cannabis businesses to ensure diversity of all kinds throughout their workforce?

Choose candidates by their abilities and not their identity.

Diversity to many is much more than just race, ethnicity or gender. Why do you feel it is important to have diversity of all types throughout the cannabis space?

Having diversity of all types throughout the cannabis space helps to frame the conversation of what we want for and from the industry. Allowing for steps to be taken so that it becomes normalized in conversation and thought is a process that takes time. Our first step is welcoming those that align and letting them know they are considered. Consideration leads to being actively aware and being an immediate thought. Our immediate thought is that your voice matters.

What do you feel is the largest obstacle preventing diversity within the Cannabis industry?

The fact that many people consider identity before ability. Studies show that people often identify with those with the same or similar identities. Being aware of your self-identity and the influence it has on your world view will help to prevent unintentional sway. Sometimes all it takes is calling people out in a calm and polite manner to make them aware of their potential bias.

Event Poster

Do you have suggestions on how the cannabis industry can cultivate strong diversity in all aspects moving forward? If so, come on out to the March Lunch and Learn at the Nuvolution Community Center located at 3835 Elm St, Unit A, Denver, CO 80207 on March 15th at 12pm local time. Can’t attend? Leave us your comments and keep the conversation going in the comments below!


1 Comment

  1. Very good post. I will be going through many of these issues as well..

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