Article by Rachel Browne, Vice News
Two years after Canada legalized recreational cannabis, Black and Indigenous people, and women, are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions at licensed cannabis producers, new research shows. And experts say there needs to be more effort to bring racialized people, who have been disportionately criminalized by cannabis prohibition, into the legal fold.
White people are overrepresented in leadership roles at cannabis companies across Canada, making up around 84 percent of executive and director positions, according to new data released Wednesday by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation that provides the first snapshot of the gender and racial breakdown of these roles since legalization.
This mirrors similar racial disparities among cannabis companies in the U.S., where around 80 percent of legal cannabis businesses are run by white people.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised by the findings,” Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, the report’s senior author and sociology professor at the University of Toronto, told VICE News. “It’s disheartening that so little progress has been made in this respect.”
Owusu-Bempah and his team analyzed publicly available information on 700 executives and directors at 166 licensed cannabis producers and 56 parent companies.
Just six percent of these company leaders are South Asian, two percent are Indigenous, and one percent are Black. White people comprise 73 percent of Canada’s general population, according to census figures, while Indigenous and Black people comprise around five percent and three percent respectively.
When it comes to gender, women make up 14 percent of the top cannabis roles analyzed by the report authors; only two percent of these are non-white women.
VICE News first reported in 2017 that nearly all of Canada’s licensed producers at the time (which were then only allowed to sell medicinal cannabis) were run by white men. In 2018, the Montreal Gazette revealed that people of colour made up three percent of the management staff at the top five legal cannabis producers and distributors in Canada.
A lack of diversity among execs and directors continues to be a problem across many industries beyond the cannabis sector.
Though there’s a limited amount of data available on the issue, a 2019 Osler report found that women held more than 18 percent of board seats in 2019 on TSX-listed companies that disclose the gender makeup of their boards. An analysis by the Financial Post from earlier this year found that racialized people made up just 5.5 percent of 255 director roles at publicly traded companies in Canada.