While issues such as banking access and providing adequate supply to meet demand have dominated headlines in areas where cannabis has been legalized, another major issue currently faces those states and nations where the industry went from black market to licensed overnight. 

Aiming to address the issue of social equity and workforce opportunities for those previously engaged in the unlicensed cannabis industry, Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE: CL; OTCQX: CRLBF) just launched the Social Equity & Educational Development program (SEED). 

The Chicago-based company’s SEED initiative is designed to promote expunging cannabis conviction records, as well as promoting inclusion towards a more diverse workforce in the industry. 

On the political side, the prospect of expunging previous convictions has become a fiercely debated topic both in Canada, where recreational marijuana usage is now legal nationwide, and the 10 states across the U.S. where cannabis has been legalized. 

As cannabis legalization measures take off in additional states – and federal legalization becomes a focal point for U.S. 2020 Presidential debates the cannabis industry has the potential to become a major job creator in the country. 

Citing a goal of assisting 20,000 people to find employment in the industry by 2022, Cresco’s Chief Executive Officer Charlie Bachtell commented on the SEED program: 

From collaborating with universities to develop cannabis-focused curriculum to working with local agencies and community organizations to sponsor expungement events, the SEED initiative consists of impactful programs and actionable solutions-based approaches that we believe will help make the cannabis industry a highly inclusive force for job creation.

The program’s multi-pronged approach focuses on: 

  • Working with local communities to aid individuals with convictions in gaining employment 
  • Launching outreach initiatives to bring women, veterans, and people of colour into the industry 
  • Support the raising of capital for new small cannabis businesses 
  • Developing curriculum for institutes of higher learning to use in cannabis career education programs 

Local governments have also previously taken matters into their own hands to address the issue of disenfranchisement for individuals who have the experience to start cannabis businesses, but would otherwise be excluded based on criminal history or access to capital. 

The city of Oakland, for instance, held a lottery for cannabis licenses that was split into two groups, with one group prioritizing business owners from low-income neighbourhoods who had previously been convicted of a crime related to cannabis.