Vangst, a leading cannabis hiring platform, has launched a social equity program for those typically shut out of the cannabis industry.
The legal cannabis industry can brag about many impressive accomplishments including access to safe relief, job creation, new tax revenues, and an expansion of individual civil liberties. However, these effects are not always felt by everyone and the cannabis industry must take steps to ensure its rising tide raises all boats.
The Vangst Social Equity Program was created to help thousands who have been victimized by archaic drug laws and are seeking entry into the cannabis industry.
“Black and Latino communities are to this day disproportionately arrested for drug violations and account for 46.9 percent of arrests, despite making up 31.5 percent of the U.S. population,” Vangst said in a release. “Individuals with criminal records face significant obstacles when applying for jobs, scholarships, and housing opportunities, and are often excluded from participating in the legal cannabis industry altogether.”
Some cities and states have instituted policies requiring a certain percentage of cannabis business licenses be awarded to people of color, but it seems more still must be done to address the issue. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland, California, a city that launched its own cannabis equity program, described her experience while receiving an award at a cannabis industry trade show.
“I looked out into the audience, and I think I saw about two African Americans out of about 900 people—and these were business owners,” Lee told Rolling Stone. “So when I accepted my award I thanked them and kind of talked about the lack of inclusion and diversity. That began a whole series of conversations about this.”
The problem is not only relegated to those seeking to become business owners. Not everyone has the ability or adequate finances to launch a business. Entry-level and management positions also must be accessible. But with so many unfairly incarcerated for cannabis possession, they may not have the opportunity.
Karson Humiston, founder and chief executive officer at Vangst, thinks her company and its equity program can help change that.
“The Vangst team and our corporate partners recognize the urgent need to address the social injustice perpetrated by the war on drugs that has disproportionately incarcerated people of color and low-income communities,” Humiston said. “As the regulated market becomes more robust each year with more states legalizing recreational cannabis, we believe it is our duty to offer employment opportunities to those whose criminal offenses are no longer relevant under current state laws. In 2019, nonviolent cannabis-related drug offenses should not bar anybody from making an honest living.”
In the short term, Humiston plans on connecting 5,000 California residents who have previous convictions with employment in the cannabis industry through the program. By next year, she expects to expand Vangst’s program to additional states. According to Humiston, Vangst already connects employers from some of the largest cannabis companies across the country with qualified applicants. Humiston feels employers will not present any major obstacles to overcome. Rather, she is seeking legal reform from local governments who often bar anyone with a previous cannabis conviction from obtaining business licenses or working in the industry. Humiston feels some cities are beginning to open the door for Vangst’s social equity program.
“With the implementation of local government initiatives such as the Los Angeles Social Equity Program, we can now work with these entities to connect with social equity qualified applicants,” Humiston told SF Weekly.
According to Vangst, legal cannabis currently employs over 160,000 workers and has experienced a 690-percent increase in job listings over the course of the past year. By 2022, analysts project a total of 340,000 full-time cannabis workers in the U.S.