Recent cannabis data from Illinois has revealed a sharp increase in diversity since the state launched recreational cannabis sales in January 2020. The Illinois Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer (CROO) states that cannabis businesses in the early days of adult-use sales were 100% majority owned with only one majority woman-owned cannabis enterprise in the entire state.
However, a survey report published last week shows that efforts to promote diversity in the Illinois recreational cannabis industry have yielded great success. The surveys found that the number of Black-owned businesses in the sector increased from 0 27% from 2020 to 2023. Hispanic or Latino-owned businesses went up from 0 to 5%, and Asian-owned enterprises climbed from 0 to 3%. Furthermore, women-owned companies now account for 16% of all licensed cannabis companies in Illinois.
These findings came from two CROO surveys. The first was a mandatory survey sent to all the 277 licensed cannabis businesses in May while the other was a voluntary poll for their employees.
Approximately 224 licensees (132 companies) and 2,307 employees responded to the poll, providing CROO with a decent enough sample size to work with. They found that the number of individual cannabis business owners in the Black community increased to 26% from only 1% in 2020 while Hispanic and Latino owners now account for 7% of the market.
On the employee side, 11% of the survey participants were Hispanic or Latino, a 6% increase from 5% in 2020. However, even though the number of Black employees in the state’s cannabis sector dropped from 10% to 9% in 2023, Black workers were better represented in higher-level positions in 2023 compared to 2020, registering an increase to 19% from a paltry 1% of Black employees in the C-suite. The number of Black people on the boards of directors of cannabis companies also increased from 6% in 2020 to 20% in 2023, the report said.
CROO notes that the findings may not be fully representative of Illinois’ cannabis industry because not every licensed cannabis retailer responded to the poll. The office also added that responses from licensed cannabis companies “were not verified but accepted as accurate.” Even so, CROO says their findings represent the most accurate and available information on the subject matter to date.
Social equity has been a key component of cannabis legalization efforts in many states because it allows communities that were disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition to benefit from cannabis legalization.
This report shows the extent to which companies such as Verano Holdings Corp. (CSE: VRNO) (OTCQX: VRNOF) are creating opportunities for a diverse set of Illinois residents to participate in this rapidly growing industry.
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