By: Caroline Naughton, Students for Sensible Drug Policy:

The medical cannabis industry and drug policy reformers should collaborate and form strategic partnerships to further both parties’ interests. By forming alliances between the activist and business communities, the industry is able to engage in philanthropic commerce, profiting from its operations while simultaneously promoting the movement that led to its very creation.

To begin its philanthropic commerce, the medical cannabis industry should lobby for responsible cannabis regulations that encourage businesses to hire minorities, especially those minorities that have been adversely affected by the war on drugs and have nonviolent drug charges on their criminal records. This initiative will provide reparations for those targeted by failed prohibitionist policies, while facilitating the reform movement’s mission to create sensible drug policies grounded in compassion and human rights. This movement should even facilitate Latino/Hispanic people’s re-entry into the workplace after being released from prison for a nonviolent drug law violation.

Latino/Hispanic communities comprise massive populations of people for whom drug laws have been unequally enforced. By providing incentives for businesses to hire Latino/Hispanic employees, or for businesses to be wholly owned by Latino/Hispanic people, racial justice will be enacted and a diverse medical cannabis market will engage new consumer segments. After all, no one knows the Latino/Hispanic community like Latino/Hispanic people themselves.

As big business enters the medical cannabis industry and attempts to acquire a majority of market share, it is critical that small players remain in the game through their unique cannabis culture, extremely loyal customers, socially conscious values and self-regulation. These mom-and-pop boutique businesses will differentiate themselves through their commitment to the movement, and consumers will be willing to pay a premium for their products because of this costly commitment.

Ultimately, creating a business grounded in diversity and inclusion is a forward-thinking strategy, as it does not generate immediate returns. Nevertheless, giving back to the movement will pay off in the long run, as this mission becomes a part of the business’s brand strategy and cultivates a deep, emotional bond between brand and consumer. In the future, businesses will compete on social dimensions like these, and will have to differentiate themselves from competitors through their philanthropic commerce, or as some entrepreneurs prefer to call it, conscious capitalism.

By incorporating conscious capitalism into a medical cannabis business’s daily operations, the industry will be better positioned to educate underrepresented communities on the benefits of the medicine. Successful execution of these business strategies will enable Latino/Hispanic people to participate in the medical cannabis industry as consumers, employees, investors, owners, and other critical stakeholders. Finally, businesspeople and activists should work together to empower Latino/Hispanic communities to advocate for drug policy reform on their own behalf. When done right, people of all backgrounds will reap the benefits of both the bud and the business.