Why Did the Rich, White CEO of Curaleaf Say Social Equity Programs Go Too Far? And Is He Right?

February 6, 2023 · Cannabis.net

The commercialization of the cannabis market has resulted in its transformation from a movement to an industry. This shift brings added responsibilities, particularly in the area of social equity. As a regulated industry, the cannabis market bears a significant burden to prioritize and advance fairness and justice.

The marijuana industry in the US, both medical and recreational, is thriving nationwide. With legalization in various states, business owners are eager to establish cultivation sites, produce cannabis products, and open dispensaries. However, breaking into the market is no easy feat. Obtaining licenses, securing real estate, and acquiring funding require substantial financial resources and savvy political maneuvering.

Consequently, the opportunity to invest and reap profits in the cannabis industry has primarily been seized by well-funded corporate entities. White male business magnates with extensive networks and resources dominate these companies.

Despite comprising 15% of the US population, African-Americans own only 2% of the nation’s cannabis-related businesses, including dispensaries. To address this disparity, particularly in light of the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs on African-Americans, some states and municipalities have implemented social equity programs in their marijuana regulations.

Social equity seeks to promote fairness and justice in public policy. These programs aim to give individuals of color and those with previous marijuana-related convictions a genuine chance to partake and succeed in this rapidly growing industry.

Have Social Equity Programs Fallen Short?

Efforts to incorporate more robust social equity provisions and aid programs into state cannabis laws are rising. Still, they are frequently hindered by legal battles, bureaucratic hurdles, and operational obstacles.

The Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) asserts that existing social equity initiatives have been insufficient. A cursory examination reveals that the vast majority of profits from legal cannabis sales are flowing into the hands of a homogeneous group of well-established entrepreneurs.

The MCBA points to the scarcity of race-focused social equity provisions in state cannabis laws and policies as a significant contributor to the issues at hand. In essence, there is insufficient emphasis on ensuring Black, Latino, and Indigenous individuals have a place in the industry.

Latest Reaction from Boris Jordan

According to Curaleaf Executive Chairman Boris Jordan, social justice initiatives in states like California and New York have gone “too far.” He is prepared to take action, stating in a recent podcast with Toby Channabis on Twitter that he believes the pendulum is about to swing against these people.

In the recent podcast with Toby Channabis on Twitter, Jordan expressed his frustration with implementing New York’s adult-use market, prioritizing social equity candidates over multi-state operators who hold existing medical cannabis licenses.

According to Jordan, the New York authorities are practically endorsing illegal cannabis. He added that they are reducing testing standards for adult use, compared to medical, and allowing the sale of products that should not be sold in stores, all to keep multi-state operators out of the market.

Jordan explained that New York disregarded its regulations to get its two licensed adult-use stores open – one operated by a non-profit and the other owned by an individual with a criminal justice background. These stores are located in New York City. New York has broken 8 to 10 of its laws with the implementation of its adult-use program. Jordan has not ruled out the possibility of taking legal action if they don’t comply. “We’re talking to New York, but if they don’t follow the rules, we’ll sue,” he said.

The Pendulum Swing

Jordan emphasized that it’s different from the concept of social justice that bothers him. Instead, it’s how the programs are carried out in various states.

Jordan expressed that he supports the concept of social justice. Still, the execution of these programs in certain states, including California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York, must be revised. According to him, these liberal states have used these programs as a mask to conceal the financial issues within them.

Jordan expressed his concern with how some states have executed their social justice programs, claiming that they have become misguided and lost sight of their original goals. He added that these programs have led to the allocation of licenses to individuals who may not be suitable to operate in the industry. Still, he also warned that as these states begin to require more revenue from cannabis operations, they will be forced to adjust their approach and realign their programs.

Curaleaf became the leading cannabis company in the United States three years ago with its acquisition of the well-known Grassroots chain based in Chicago.

What Does The Future Of Social Equity Hold?

The future of social equity in the cannabis industry is uncertain and subject to change based on various factors such as government policies, industry trends, and legal developments. However, the general trend seems to be toward greater emphasis on ensuring equity and fairness in the cannabis industry, especially for communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs.

This could take the form of increased social equity programs, affirmative action initiatives, and other supportive measures to promote diversity and inclusivity in the cannabis industry. However, the specifics of what the future of social equity will look like will depend on the continued evolution of the cannabis industry and related social justice movements.


Boris Jordan’s views on social equity in the cannabis industry combine support for the concept and criticism of its execution in several states. He recognizes the importance of rectifying past injustices and ensuring a more diverse representation in the industry but believes that the current programs in some states have gone astray. Jordan believes that the programs have been misused to hide financial problems and have been overly broad in their application, leading to some unexpected outcomes.

Despite his criticisms, Jordan remains optimistic about the future of social equity in the industry. It believes that the programs will eventually change to align to generate more tax revenue from cannabis operators. With his vast experience and knowledge of the cannabis industry, it will be interesting to see how Jordan helps shape the future of social equity. (Full Story)

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