THE ENTREPRENEUR BUILDING REPARATIONS INTO THE INDUSTRY
If you've been following the growth of the legal cannabis industry, you probably know that diversity – or lack thereof – is a major topic of late. While no formal statistics exist to give a clear sense of just how unbalanced the industry is – the Drug Policy Alliance estimates that less than 1 percent of cannabis businesses are owned or operated by people of color while a Marijuana Business Daily survey found that 19 percent cannabis business owners or stakeholders are racial minorities – what is known is that the criminalization of cannabis, or "the war on drugs," has overwhelmingly impacted communities of color.
Though cannabis is becoming more widely accepted, this impact is ongoing. Blacks are still 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to the ACLU, and many laws in the states with legal cannabis markets ban people with criminal records from working in the industry, pushing an already marginalized group even further out.
In an effort to solve this glaring discrepancy, many jurisdictions have implemented or are working on implementing equity programs, which aim to ensure a certain amount of business permits and sometimes even investment capital are reserved for entrepreneurs of color. But Galen Pallas wants to take it a step further. Instead of relying on policies to dictate how people of color are supported in the industry, the cannabis entrepreneur plans to donate a portion of his for-profit business to African American youth as reparations for slavery and the war on drugs.
Through his yet-to-launch cannabis company, Kind Culture, Pallas will use 5 percent of the earnings to pay for the education and living expenses of African American youth from Oakland, California, who have a parent who is or was jailed due to the criminalization of cannabis. While he plans to start this himself by donating five percent of his profits to black youth, his ultimate goal is to get the entire legal cannabis industry on board with his plan.
Read on to get an inside look at Pallas' vision. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.