There is no secret that cannabis, like every other industry, has an inclusivity problem. Despite the constant juxtaposition of mass incarcerations of BIPOC with a predominately white business sector flourishing in the legal market, there is severe lack of diversity where it matters. Beyond the extreme criminal justice disparity, BIPOC are more likely to undergo investigation by child protective services for cannabis use, experience testing for prenatal use, and are more likely to be left out of licensing.
While there are endless examples of how BIPOC are negatively impacted by the War on Drugs (WOD), the good news is that this industry is uniquely positioned to course-correct some of that damage. Luckily, people like Mary Pryor are working tirelessly to hold businesses and consumers in cannabis accountable. In an open letter published on Cannaclusive’s website (Pryor is the co-founder), Pryor addresses the weaknesses in diversity initiatives and hiring practices across the industry, making it clear that there is a lot of work to be done.
In the letter, Pryor announces The Accountability List (TAL), which is a live database that lists the steps major companies in cannabis are making to correct the damage of the WOD. The intention of the letter and subsequent unveiling of TAL is not to “expose” or “cancel” anyone; rather, it is meant to be a tool for holding each other accountable as we seek legitimacy as an industry. Pryor refers to TAL as a tool that can “call in” companies that are able to better support equity and inclusion.
“The industry was built on the backs of marginalized people and our ownership percentages are very small in the comparison to those who are non-BIPOC,” says Pryor.
She points out that consumers have power and knowing how their dollars circulate within the bigger brands that have resources to assist equity and inclusion movements matters. People are looking for accountability from the large players right now, especially since cannabis is being considered essential during a time when many BIPOC are sitting in prison for drug-related crimes. Furthermore, cannabis consumers are being called on to become more mindful with their support.
Inclusivebase, Education, And Equity
Pryor is giving consumers the tools to meet the moment with another database called Inclusivebase, which lists POC-owned cannabis businesses in all forms. This concurrent project is a collaboration between Pryor’s Cannaclusive team and Kieryn Wang of ALMOSTCONSULTING, and it came about after years of collecting internal databases of BIPOC-businesses. The collaborators encourage consumers to use the list when they travel from state to state, and for businesses to use it as a tool for future cross-promotion.
Even though the Inclusivebase has been around for years, it is getting more attention now, due to the ongoing conversation about police brutality. As Pryor points out over social media, it should not take such devastation to create change, but this can be a moment of real action from the cannabis industry. While conversations around race are usually uncomfortable, Pryor and her team are creating the tools necessary to make them possible in the workplace.
When it comes to creating a safe corporate culture for uncomfortable conversation, Pryor says that the first step is to admit that there are biased and blind spots when it comes to understanding how systemic racism plays in this industry.
“Make tangible moves internally and externally to hire BIPOC across all levels of business starting with board sheets and managerial roles,” she says, “Actively support on the ground leaders that are fighting for equity in cannabis and hemp. Collaborate and pay BIPOC for their knowledge and time.
Pryor is constantly working to educate and provide accessible conversations for people who are unsure of how to navigate. She co-founded Cannaclusive, which offers stock photography representing inclusivity and diversity in cannabis, and facilitates fair representation of minority consumers. There is no shortage of content and online educational offerings that Pryor creates. As colleague and friend Denise Biderman says, Pryor is a force to be reckoned with, and an integral and vital part of the cannabis industry.
“She is unbelievably passionate, incredibly determined and extraordinarily brilliant, and her knowledge of the plant and the business surrounding the plant is unmatched,” says Biderman (Esq., Partner and CSR Director of Quality Control, and Co-Founder of Mary’s List), “Our advocacy work together has been a highlight of my time in cannabis and I’m grateful to call her a colleague and a friend.”
As for the future of The Accountability List, Pryor says that they are adding companies every day, ensuring that the methodologies are accurate. To continue with such an enormous project, they will need more sponsorship and interns, but they are in talks with some volunteers. Pryor says that major updates will be announced at the end of July, and there will be subsequent ways for businesses to become involved.
When asked how the industry can best support her, Pryor says she welcomes more opportunities to speak about inclusive marketing and strategies that can be implemented to promote equity and support Black owned future leaders in cannabis and hemp. Most importantly, she wants the focus on TAL and Inclusivesbase.
“Shop and support. Buy and share with your friends and family. This is not just a PR moment. These companies (listed on Inclusivebase) are on par with large entities too and deserve more support from consumers across the board.”Companies looking to sponsor or inquire about being involved in the next steps can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.