Dave DeLuca, CEO/Chemist, Babylon Company, Anchorage Alaska
What does equality in the Cannabis industry mean to you?
I would define it as everyone is given the same opportunities and tools to succeed. Be it investors, rules and regulations, enforcement, workplace environment, or personnel-workforce impartiality – all the given variables within the Cannabis industry. Everyone has a seat at the table. Everyone has a voice, and those voices are heard and matter. (Laughingly) Look at medical versus recreational. Really the only thing that is similar, is the fact that recreational businesses are allowed to operate at all. The evolution of the medical Cannabis industry is outpacing the recreational industry in some states, and recreational is now at the forefront and the medical industry faces stagnation in others. When we see equity with both sides of these two entities, that’s a positive step in equality and uniformity. In doing so, a collective voice is spoken. Unity between the two creates a homeostatic relationship, rather than the ‘us and them’ environment as it currently stands.
What needs to change about the Cannabis industry as it relates to equality/equity?
Given the definitions of the two, equality would be the end goal – with equity being the path to achieving equality. Cannabis is a rare opportunity, being a newly recognized and legitimate industry. Evolution and betterment are always easier at the basement level. Where I see the biggest equity/equality gaps are with women and minorities within the industry. The other is educational, having a workforce that is capable and knowledgeable, and most importantly – passion is tantamount. Imagine when a college student or graduate student is working to acquire their degree so they can enter the Cannabis industry. Those are the pioneering dreamers, the trailblazing advocates, and the innovative thinkers the industry needs to move forward. So, the change in the equation relates to how regulations, educational resources, and investment opportunities are fostered and distributed for potential business owners with impartiality. On the staffing side, the ownership should be actively involved with management – management should be involved in listening, with the implementation of feedback received for the evaluation of individual staff – to ensure that equitable training and mentoring is provided that benefits all parties within the conforming system of said business. Staff involvement in educating the public in the retail environments, by creating awareness, safe practices, and community equality at the consumer level, is another vital component in seeing an ever-changing landscape become more sustainable and one with positive longevity.
What is the Cannabis industry getting right in terms of equality and equity?
Until we see every single state fall under federal protection and system of law, you will have an imbalance. Struggle breeds from this, and subsequently, hardship, hurdles, and needless anxiety. Without guidance currently at the federal level – such as The Cole Memo being withdrawn – the industry is faced with an up-in-the-air legality. Legalization at the federal level would be the first step in getting things right.
Can you give us an example of something equitable you’ve seen happen in the Cannabis space?
I will only speak from the experience I have on this question. I recognized early the lack of feminine representation within the Cannabis industry. While our employment opportunities were fair and balanced, the female candidates were more detailed, educated, and rational in every aspect from proficiency to personality traits within the dynamic of the company mission, and principles it was founded on.
What challenges are facing the Cannabis industry in terms of equality and equity?
Regulations, currently as an industry, we stand in stare decisis – where legally recognized states are in conflict with federal law due to lack of precedent. So, a conglomerate framework is being established in the infancy of states’ fledgling industries. In time, when and if Cannabis becomes legal on the federal level, federal agency rules and regulations now become more in line to create federal/state conflicts that end up in potential litigation circumstances. Where therein, it becomes extremely challenging on how states are viewed. Are all legal states treated with impartial funding allocations and regulation enforcement in regards to socioeconomic and tax contributions? The approach to those factors will set the precedent. The balance there, if tipped, definitely has a cascade effect all the way down to the consumer.