Scholarship program will provide competitive advantages to people most harmed by prohibition
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In order to increase opportunities and representation for people of color and marginalized communities in the cannabis industry, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is launching the Social Equity Scholarship Program which will provide any social equity applicant or license-holder with one year of free membership with NCIA. This program is intended to help level the playing field by providing current and future equity operators with the networking, resources, and educational benefits offered by the nation’s largest and most established cannabis trade organization.
The scholarship application is open now and available here.
“The tragic deaths of George Floyd and so many others at the hands of police have caused a national reckoning about systemic racism and inequality in all facets of life, including the cannabis industry,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “As an organization founded on the principles of justice, fairness, and inclusion, this program is a necessary step for us to better uphold and promote those values. Providing resources to all social equity program applicants and elevating their voices is an important part of the ongoing process to help repair the devastation that prohibition and centuries of institutional racism have inflicted on marginalized communities.”
“This program is one way that NCIA can help empower black and brown communities that were (and are) disproportionately targeted by law enforcement for cannabis offenses. It gives entrepreneurs from those communities tools and resources that can help them overcome some structural impediments to their success, including asymmetries in access to industry information and education,” said Khurshid Khoja, chairperson of NCIA’s board of directors, board member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and principal at Greenbridge Corporate Counsel. “The cannabis industry as a whole has a moral obligation to recognize the disproportionate burden of criminal cannabis prohibition borne by these communities over decades, and to ensure that the opportunities created by legal markets are available, not just on an equal basis, but on an equitable one.”
“Social equity businesses deserve representation in the cannabis industry, and within NCIA is no different,” said Amber Senter, co-founder of Supernova Women and chairperson of NCIA’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEIC). “Offering free memberships to businesses that represent a segment of people that have been harmed by the war on drugs is a step in the right direction of inclusion.”
“In order for the cannabis industry to effectively encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion, we must work to build an infrastructure that prioritizes and reflects the needs of the individuals and businesses that have barriers to access so that they may truly participate as equitable partners,” said Chris Jackson, a member of NCIA’s board of directors and the government relations and social equity lead for Sticky, a Michigan-based cannabis retailer. “With this initiative, we are closer to amplifying that mission as an industry leader that should be replicated and championed. There is plenty more work to be done and initiatives like these will help provide equitable opportunities and remove barriers that shouldn’t exist to begin with.”
“The DEIC has initiatives lined up for the coming term year, our second in existence, to create greater representation and participation on NCIA’s platforms,” said Mike Lomuto, DEIC member and managing partner at Dao Mastery consulting group. “I’m hopeful that removing the barrier of membership fees will be the first step of many in creating the impact in the industry we’d like to see.”
The scholarship program provides one year of regular membership and other benefits, and is available to anyone who is applying for a cannabis business license through a state or local social equity program or who has already obtained an equity license. This is a permanent offer available to any new equity applicants in perpetuity.
NCIA is also endorsing House Resolution 988, which was introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and condemns all forms of police brutality and systemic oppression linked to the war on drugs and other policies. It is actively supporting federal legislative reforms, particularly to increase banking access for small businesses and deschedule cannabis in ways that help repair the racially and economically disproportionate damage caused by prohibition.