Clients operating—or looking to become involved—in the cannabis space face significant challenges: Uncertain legal footing, thin profit margins, tight competition and a stigmatized product, to name but a few. One challenge, however, presents a significant business opportunity for those who are willing to champion the cause: Creating diversity in the cannabis industry.

For decades, black and brown communities have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis. Studies have repeatedly shown that, while Americans of all races and ethnicities use illicit drugs at roughly the same rates, African Americans are three to four times more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for drug use as compared to their white counterparts. This imbalance had continued even in the face of criminal justice reform. Of the roughly 1,800 people arrested in Philadelphia since the “decriminalization” of marijuana in the city, 81% are African American, against a city population that is only 44% African American.

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