Diversity slowly increasing among Colorado cannabis business owners

Diversity among business owners in the Colorado cannabis market is on the rise and has exceeded a goal set by the state, but the industry remains dominated by white men, a new report shows.

According to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), minority ownership of marijuana companies in Colorado had reached 16.9% as of Jan. 1, compared with baseline data of 15.2%.

According to a department news release, the state had set a “wildly important goal” of minority ownership in the state’s marijuana industry exceeding 16.8% by June 30, 2022 – a level that was reached by the start of this year.

The MED data includes 50 social equity-licensed businesses, of which four permits were issued just last month.

But the numbers also reveal that the industry remains overwhelmingly white and male: Of a total of 43,670 employees and owners, 25,445 were male. And of the 26,949 Colorado marijuana industry insiders who self-identified their race, 18,208 were white (16,721 did not respond).

The findings: Whites comprise 66.5% of employees in the industry and 83.1% of owners, according to the MED numbers.

Women, meanwhile, represent 39% of the employees in the industry and account for 19% of owners.

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The MED’s social equity data also showed that:

  • Hispanics were the second-largest demographic, at 17.1% of employees and 7.9% of owners.
  • Blacks represent 6.2% of employees and 2.9% of owners.
  • Asians represent 1.5% of employees and 4% of owners.