Parallel CEO advocates for breaking down cannabis ‘protectionist policies’

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(This story has been updated to reflect that Paul Aronzon is Parallel’s board chair.)

The new chief executive of cannabis multistate operator Parallel took the unusual step this week of publishing an open letter apologizing for the way the company has handled equity issues in the past while committing to work to eliminate “protectionist policies” that lead to such inequities.

“While I’m proud of so much of the work we have done to increase access to cannabis for tens of millions of people across the country, in hindsight, it’s clear that Parallel has not handled the social responsibility that came with being in such a privileged position in the markets we serve,” Parallel CEO James Whitcomb wrote.

“While I can’t speak for every large cannabis company out there, I can speak for our company when I say, ‘I’m sorry, it’s past time for us to do better.’”

The letter refers to the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s recent report detailing inequities in the state-legal cannabis industry.

Atlanta-based Parallel supports the report, Whitcomb wrote, and is partnering with the MCBA to “help advocate for the fundamental changes the report highlights as necessary for the cannabis industry to become truly equitable.”

Whitcomb replaced billionaire chewing gum heir Beau Wrigley as Parallel’s CEO in November. And Paul Aronzon has replaced Wrigley as chair of the board.

MSOs in general are promoting the work they are doing to advance equity in the industry, such as providing technical support and mentoring to entrepreneurs.

But Amber Littlejohn, the MCBA’s executive director, noted a distinction in terms of what Parallel is doing.

“Parallel is breaking ranks from the MSOs and taking a stand against the protectionism and shifting towards investing in meaningful equitable policy,” Littlejohn told MJBizDaily via email.

That protectionism includes limited-license markets where MSOs can carve out substantial market positions while entrepreneurs are largely left out or bought out.

Whitcomb wrote that Parallel has an obligation to ensure there is a pathway for entrepreneurs of color and is shifting its resources from trade associations that advocate for protectionist policies to the MCBA’s legislative advocacy efforts.

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While Parallel now is essentially advocating to break down an industry it helped create, “it’s the right thing to do and will create long-term stakeholder value.”

It’s time, Whitcomb wrote, for Parallel to “stop hiding behind the wall of ‘safety and transparency’ that has led to advocacy for exclusionary, protectionist policies.”