Cannabis equity advocates respond to MG Retailer’s “8 Cannabis Businesses Working for Social Equity”

We are outraged that MG Retailer is promoting Cresco, HempStaff, Revolution, and Vangst as leaders of social equity work. It is irresponsible to publish such superficial and inaccurate perspectives of what social equity work entails. Such oblivious commentary is the exact behavior that has created systemic and institutionalized racism that exists in America today. Please take this response as an opportunity to learn and collaborate with those representing and fighting daily to make this cannabis industry more equitable in ownership, employment and representation.

The vast majority of owners of the companies in this article are white. White-owned companies should not be deciding what kind of help impacted communities need. White-owned companies should not be leading the development of social equity legislation and programs. If they truly want to claim they run equitable businesses, they would have to surrender ownership to Black and Latinx formerly-incarcerated people.

Cresco and Revolution are part of the white-owned monopoly in Illinois. Both actively lobbied for a form of legalization that was marketed as a model of criminal justice reform and social equity, when in reality pre-existing operators (100% white-owned) are the ones who are given priority for licenses. If Cresco’s SEED program is a priority, they should fill the SEED-related jobs that have been posted since last year. Meanwhile, they have continued to expand their cultivation and retail operations while social equity applicants wait indefinitely for licenses. Whether any of the SEED Incubator participant’s will receive a license remains to be seen. All SEED opportunities should be directed specifically to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks.

Both HempStaff and Vangst existed for around 5 years before making any attempt to invest resources in candidates who qualify for social equity. Their social equity programs are set up to serve owners who do not personally qualify for social equity and are not invested enough in impacted communities to build partnerships on their own. Until Vangst launched their social equity program, their slogan was “Be a Vangster” and the people featured on their site were almost 100% white.

Another featured company, Feel State, is asking people to donate to the Last Prisoner Project and NORML, white-founded and led organizations whose work is not centered on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. How does this make Feel State a company working for social equity?

Achieving social equity requires more than cannabis-related policy and holding companies accountable for their hiring practices. Not everyone who has been impacted by the war on drugs wants to work for or own a cannabis company. The communities most impacted by racial profiling, police brutality and mass incarceration deserve safe housing, quality education, sustainable employment, health care etc.

Thank you for highlighting The Hood Incubator. There are many other local and national POC-led non profit groups doing the work including:

Chicago NORML

Cannabis Equity IL Coalition

Drug Policy Alliance

Marijuana Matters

Minorities for Medical Marijuana

Minority Cannabis Business Association

Supernova Women

The Equity Organization

Women of Color in Cannabis

Signed

Beyond Equity Founder Chaney Turner

Illinois Equity Staffing Co-Founder Shawnee Williams

THC Staffing Group Co-Founder Danielle Schumacher

Co-Founder of THC Staffing Group: DEI recruiting and consulting for the cannabis industry. Advocate of drug war reparations for BIPOC.