As we survey the landscape in 2022, it’s clear the cannabis industry’s work has only begun when it comes to creating a vibrant, diverse ecosphere where all can thrive. Although many businesses are eager to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion, actions sometimes fall short when it comes to doing the hard work that will drive change.
People of color in cannabis are doing the work, day in and day out, to build a better industry. They are increasing access to capital in underserved communities, advising governments on impactful social-equity initiatives, fighting stigma, building meaningful networks, and forging paths for others.
In no way is this list exhaustive, but it is a start, reflecting a cohort of industry leaders who captured our attention for the passion, innovation, and determination they bring to their work. They know from experience it takes concerted effort to create opportunities and remove barriers, and they’re delivering that effort not only in their own workplaces, but also in the larger community.
Both inspirational and aspirational, their resolve and advice provide powerful motivation for industry-wide efforts to create a more inclusive, equitable cannabis space in 2022 and beyond.
Executive director, National Hispanic Cannabis Council (NHCC)
As a seasoned consumer marketing professional, Antonio Valdez recognizes the power of connecting with the community as a first step toward creating change. Prior to joining the cannabis industry, Valdez was instrumental in the launch of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. He brings that knowledge to his role as executive director for the National Hispanic Cannabis Council (NHCC), where he leads efforts to support and empower Hispanic community participation in the cannabis industry and break down taboos and stigma surrounding cannabis.
Valdez is quick to point out how businesses can remove obstacles faced by people of color by educating and fostering a broader base of support. “We often see a disconnect between particularly active, vocal supporters of the industry and everyone else,” he said. “We need a broader base of support to create sustainable change and create an integrated ecosystem helping each other succeed in the legal cannabis economy.”
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