Canadian government hosting cannabis industry diversity forums

The Canadian government is hosting two public forums this month to learn how it can support existing and potential cannabis industry stakeholders from Black, Indigenous and other diverse communities.

The forums come amid calls for the country to address underrepresentation in the industry of minority groups that were historically overly criminalized under prohibition.

The Assembly of First Nations, a national advocacy body representing First Nation citizens, wants Canada to remove regulatory barriers it says are excluding Indigenous entrepreneurs from the burgeoning sector.

Industry sources previously told MJBizDaily that Indigenous cannabis businesses face higher barriers to entry, especially when seeking access to capital.

While U.S. states such as New York are undertaking ambitious social equity goals for its projected multibillion-dollar recreational cannabis industry, Canada’s federal and provincial governments have done almost nothing, critics charge.

“While there have been some limited initiatives to facilitate greater industry diversity, there is a notable absence of government regulation and adoption of programs that would structurally address the underrepresentation of racialized groups that were disproportionately targeted and punished under prohibition,” according to a report by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation.

Research by the group found that, compared to the general population, white men are overrepresented in the cannabis industry while Black and Indigenous people are “vastly underrepresented” in leadership positions.

Health Canada now says it’s implementing changes and improvements to the licensing process to address some of those concerns, but specific action is yet to be outlined.

“To continue building on these important discussions and efforts to support a diverse, equitable, and inclusive cannabis industry, Health Canada is hosting a forum with cannabis industry stakeholders from racialized communities for further opportunities and feedback,” Health Canada said in the announcement.

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The federal department said the initiative is part of Canada’s “ongoing efforts to remove systemic barriers from government policies and programs.”

The forums are taking place online on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27. To attend, register here.

Matt Lamers can be reached at mattl@mjbizdaily.com.