Opinion: We need Social Equity in all cannabis industries now

Opinion: We need Social Equity in all cannabis industries now

Note: Opinions expressed by contributors are their own and may not reflect those of Profiles in Legalization.

Social Equity is the idea of fairness and justice in social policy. It’s about whether policies leave certain groups behind or elevate all to the same level playing field. We’re seeing the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries going through these growing pains in real-time. No one should be left out.

I recently spoke at the first inaugural Black CannaConference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The topic was the need for diversity in cannabis, hemp and CBD businesses; something I’m deeply passionate about because of my background and diverse work experience. The focus needs to be on Social Equity.

It’s time that we establish more robust Social Equity programs that allow all to thrive in this industry. It shouldn’t just be those who have institutional money or come from a position of privilege.

Continuing a legacy of progress

It’s in my DNA to fight for others and elevate all underrepresented communities. My father was a Tuskegee Airman and worked for the NAACP to set up trade unions in Africa. I was raised to be a walking representation of diversity.

I’ve dedicated my life to elevating economic and human responsibility into corporate structures to create a level playing field. I’m very encouraged by Social Equity efforts, as well as diversity and inclusion programming, trending in the THC/marijuana industry. Unfortunately, similar programs are almost non-existent in the CBD/hemp space.

This needs to change.

Over the years, I’ve created, developed and sold companies in the music, fashion, spirits and hemp industries. The music business is incredibly diverse. Spirits is less so. But hemp is the least diverse industry I’ve encountered.

Here’s how we can work together to create more diversity and more equity for minority groups.

Create value and lead by example

Diversity must first be lived and led by example.

In other words, businesses and organizations must establish leadership that is differentiated and culturally diverse. Executive leadership that is diverse will create value for the organization because it will foster broader thinking and alternative perspectives. Setting a diversity example as a company culture requires the changes to come from leadership positions.

Hiring practices that promote and elevate diverse candidates must play into the equation, as well. Local policies must include programs to allow minority business ownership and access to local licenses. 

The THC/marijuana and CBD/Hemp industries approach Social Equity in different ways and from different perspectives. While the first evidence of cannabis use dates back 2,500 years, CBD was discovered as recently as 1940. The entire cannabis industry is also still affected by federal prohibition. The drug war continues to disproportionately impact minority communities, creating even greater need for a level playing field.

Adopting Corporate Social Responsibility programs is a great way for companies to create systems for Social Equity baked right into the company. Programs with a true, meaningful impact must come from a place of authenticity, not just creating a program for the publicity.

Diversity means diversity of thought

The idea of diversity means different things to different people, depending on your varied experience; where you grew up, the community you are surrounded by, and more. To me, diversity at its core is the diversity of thought. Having several differing perspectives and opinions at a company’s executive level is crucial for real change. It provides value every step of the way.

You’re responsible for your own and your company’s success when you have a leadership role.  By creating environments within organizations that encourage different life experiences and ways to view the world, companies are better able to serve the communities they aim to reach. 

I encourage you to think about what diversity means to you. How can you work to foster diverse thoughts and actions within your organizations? We can create meaningful change by paying attention to how our business decisions are made.


Andrei McQuillan is a marketing authority and proven innovator, specializing in executing business strategies that drive exposure, brand positioning and significant sales growth for products within diverse industry sectors. Andrei joined EcoGen Biosciences because of his passion for evolving early stage companies in order to bring them to a higher level.

About EcoGen BioSciences

EcoGen BioSciences is a world leader in the farming, production and manufacturing of of hemp-based ingredients and raw materials, using sustainable farming practices to ensure quality CBD products are accessible to mainstream consumers.