NCIA recently launched a partnership with the Minority Cannabis Business Association in order to address the gap in racial and ethnic diversity within the cannabis industry. We caught up with MCBA founder Jesce Horton from Oregon to talk about MCBA’s mission, which exists “to create equal access and economic empowerment for cannabis businesses, their patients, and the communities most affected by the war on drugs.”
Jesce, tell us a bit about your background and why you launched MCBA?
After I received my degree in industrial engineering, I started working for a large corporate firm right out of college. There, I began my work of reducing energy usage and environmental footprint at industrial facilities in the Americas. Shortly after moving to Portland from Munich, Germany, I started growing medical cannabis for two elderly patients that were suffering from cancer and from that, Panacea Valley Gardens was born. I got really involved in the industry and started attending conferences and networking events. I started realizing that not many people in the industry looked like me and the issues plaguing the communities of people of color didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar.
I collaborated with some other industry professionals and we formed the Minority Cannabis Business Association. We soon realized that the issues wasn’t just about morality or doing the right thing, but more about the health and sustainability of the entire industry.
What unique value does MCBA offer to the cannabis industry?
Cannabis businesses across the country are missing out on a huge segment of consumers. By being so slow to utilize this opportunity to provide economic opportunity, social justice, and patient awareness in communities that have been targeted by cannabis prohibition, the people who live there are becoming bitter towards the burgeoning industry. Just like in any market, diversity is a major benefit. This is true even more so in the cannabis industry where preferences and perspectives on our primary product can be very culturally specific.
On the flip side, minority communities can benefit greatly from the cannabis industry, in multiple ways. Health issues that affect minorities disproportionately (Minority Health Disparity Gap: Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, etc.) can be greatly relieved and even reversed through informed and measured use of safe and tested cannabis products. Also, many would find that their cannabis expenses can be reduced through information and access to the right cannabinoid profiles, application methods, and dosages. Not to mention there is a huge pool of jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities that can be available given the right policies and regulations. These things simply aren’t available at nearly the same capacity in the traditional, illegal market.
MCBA is uniquely positioned to serve as a bridge between the industry and communities that have been targeted by cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs. Our board of directors is made of up cannabis business owners, activists and legislators from across multiple cannabis markets in the country. Our programs are directly focused on
- Policy improvements that lower barriers to entry and uplift targets communities
- Educational experiences that increase access to information for people of color
- Connection with successful businesses and people who understand that this is an important issue for the sustainability of our industry
Cannabis companies have a unique responsibility to shape this growing industry to be responsible and treated equally as any other industry. How does MCBA help work toward that goal for the greater good of the cannabis industry?
At MCBA, our belief is that this industry is stronger and more sustainable when the barriers of entry are low and support small business development, not special interests. This should be the goal of any industry, especially new industries that thrive with innovation, problem solving, and community support. The policies for which we advocate and programs we execute represent equal access, responsibility, and fair taxation, not reparations or special privilege. It’s important that we work to reconcile the harms done by cannabis prohibition, but these efforts won’t be effective without a strong, dynamic, and thriving industry. They go hand-in-hand.
What kind of challenges do you face in the industry and what solutions would you like to see?
The challenges that affect communities of color from benefiting from the cannabis industry are mainly fair policies, lack of education about the industry, and limited networks to assist with raising capital and business development. We would like to see the industry stand as one to push for lower barriers to entry, tax allocation for communities targeted by the war on drugs, and community outreach regarding health education and employment opportunities.
Tell us about the partnership between MCBA and NCIA?
The partnership between MCBA and NCIA will assist us in working closer and more effectively on programs that complement each organization’s mission. Both organizations strongly believe that diversity and inclusion are principles that will guide our industry to sustainable and responsible growth. We are very excited to work closely with NCIA to ensure that this becomes a reality.