Chart: Minorities occupy 17% of executive positions in marijuana industry

(This is Part III in a series of charts regarding women and minorities in the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Daily will publish the final installment next week. Click here to read Part I and click here to read Part II.)

By Eli McVey

The percentage of minorities holding executive positions at cannabis businesses stands at 17%, according to first-of-its-kind data from a Marijuana Business Daily survey.

While many in the industry would like to see this number even higher, it’s greater than the average across all U.S. businesses as a whole.

MJBizDaily’s latest anonymous online survey, conducted Aug. 9-13, includes responses from 567 self-identified marijuana industry senior executives and owners/founders.

Minority representation in executive roles across the marijuana industry differs considerably by segment.

Wholesale cultivation and ancillary services firms are notable standouts, with nearly a quarter of executive roles and more than one in five leadership positions, respectively, filled by minorities.

This survey allowed respondents to indicate their race from five major categories, with the ability to select multiple options. They included:

  • White
  • Hispanic/Latino
  • African American/Black
  • Asian
  • Other

Information gaps and a reluctance to become involved in a heavily regulated and federally illegal industry are major barriers for minorities trying to enter the cannabis industry.

But wholesale cultivators and ancillary services firms are the most ubiquitous – and therefore some of the most familiar – types of businesses in the cannabis industry, which may be driving more minorities to high-level roles within these sectors.

There are signs that the executive structure of businesses in the traditional economy is beginning to trickle into the marijuana industry, so it’s still an open question as to how minority representation in leadership positions at cannabis companies will fare in the coming years.

But several state and local marijuana programs are seeking to bring those most affected by the war on drugs into the cannabis industry – namely people of color.

While many industries and individual companies in the traditional economy have made strides to increase minorities’ presence in the C-suite, advocates of racial diversity in the marijuana industry are in a unique position to influence policy before a market even gets off the ground.

A few examples include:

  • The city of Oakland, California, approved a measure stipulating that half the city’s marijuana business licenses go to people who have been convicted of marijuana-related charges.
  • Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission was required to consider racial diversity when granting cultivation permits, though lawsuits on the matter are still pending.
  • Ohio’s new medical marijuana law includes a provision that requires at least 15% of the state’s MMJ licenses to be awarded to one of four economically disadvantaged minority groups – Hispanics, Asians, African Americans or Native Americans.

These types of efforts could help increase diversity down the road.

Eli McVey can be reached at