Leadership in the cannabis industry doesn’t reflect the community it serves. Eaze’s innovative program is paving the way for a more equitable and inclusive future.
When Jennifer Lujan was hired as the director of social impact at Eaze, an online cannabis marketplace and delivery service, she immediately began brainstorming ways the company could make the industry a more equitable place. Throughout Lujan’s six years working in cannabis, nearly three of which have been at Eaze, she’s seen the industry take many shapes, from the grassroots days to the 2016 passage of California’s Proposition 64, which legalized weed use for people over 21 and sparked an influx of cash and opportunities in the budding industry—notably via venture capital funding of businesses founded by white men.
Lujan saw firsthand how the war on drugs negatively impacted cannabis business owners and consumers of color, and she realized federal regulations made it difficult for underrepresented entrepreneurs—BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color), LGBTQ individuals and veterans—to get a foothold in the cannabis business. ”We realized we should be doing more in this space,” Lujan says. “We need to diversify the industry.”
Leadership in the legal cannabis industry isn’t wholly reflective of the community it serves. In 2019, just 37 percent of leadership positions in the industry were held by women, according to a Marijuana Business Daily’s Women and Minorities in the Cannabis Industry report. According to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily, only 17 percent of cannabis executives were minorities in 2017. Regardless of industry, minority-owned companies are less likely to receive loans than nonminority-owned companies, according to a 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency. In an industry that requires exorbitant funding to finance licenses or secure retail space, access to capital is crucial.
As the largest legal cannabis marketplace in California, Eaze has access to a pool of dispensaries, distributors, legal experts, marketers, engineers and, importantly, cash and investors. What if Eaze opened this network to entrepreneurs, Lujan wondered, and, specifically, to entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities?
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Known for solutions that yield results, Seth Yakatan has completed or advised on acquisitions and corporate finance transactions totaling over $3 billion. He is the CEO of Katan Associates International— a financial strategy and merchant banking firm that specializes in helping companies achieve commercialization and asset monetization objectives—especially those within life-science and e-commerce sectors. Often acting as an interim CFO, Seth is an author, lecturer and guest speaker on valuation theory and real-world practices.