Nevada’s cannabis industry lacks diversity, especially in ownership, survey shows

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Nevada’s first official demographic survey of cannabis businesses shows that women and minorities account for a smaller percentage of the local marijuana industry versus their overall representation in the state – especially when it comes to ownership and management.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women account for almost 50% of Nevada’s residents, but the state-mandated survey found that only 38% of cannabis professionals identified as female.

This disparity increases when considering ownership and board membership. Representation on company boards was 81% male, with 72% of owners/managers also identifying as male.

Women found more opportunities as employees or consultants, accounting for 40% of those positions.

The pattern was similar when considering race.

Employees and consultants tended to be more diverse, while owners and executives mostly identified as white.

Nonwhite ownership, according to the survey, was 35%, which is lower than the state’s overall nonwhite population.

Nevada is almost 50% nonwhite, according to the latest census numbers. Its population is 48% white, 29% Hispanic, 9% Black and 8% Asian.

Nevada’s current cannabis regulations are limited when it comes to promoting diversity among business owners, and while there has been discussion about how to improve social equity, significant barriers must be overcome to foster inclusion.

For example, recreational cannabis licenses are limited and expensive in Nevada, with applicants needing to prove they possess at least $250,000 in liquid assets to score higher for a permit.

The Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board conducted and released the survey report, now an annual requirement after the passage of Assembly Bill 533 at the end of the 2019 legislative session.

While the compliance board, which was created by the same law and began functioning summer, hasn’t had any open licensing rounds, it has indicated it will consider applicant diversity and veteran status when issuing future permits.

The survey asked people issued agent cards as of January 2020 – including those working in cultivation, production, testing, retail and distribution – about their gender, race, age and education.

Of the 9,890 potential respondents, almost 50% returned the survey within the two-week response period.

That said, nearly 100% of industry executives responded.

When combining owners, board directors, officers, employees and consultants, the survey found:

  • 58% identified as male versus 38% identifying as female.
  • 53% identified as white versus 10% identifying as Black.
  • 24% identified as Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
  • 44% said they were 25-34 years old.

Of the total respondents:

  • 49% were in retail.
  • 42% were in cultivation.
  • 28% were in production.
  • 12% were affiliated with a cannabis distribution facility.
  • 7% were in testing.
  • 8% were some other type of employee.

The compliance board said it will refine the survey process but hopes the initial data will provide a baseline moving forward.

The agency also is establishing a pilot program for identifying opportunities for emerging small cannabis businesses to participate in the marijuana industry.

Andrew Long can be reached at