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Clark County commissioners seek more diversity in the cannabis industry

Associated Press

Nevada’s cannabis dispensaries offer a diversity of marijuana products: indica, sativa, loose-leaf, prerolls, and edibles.

Less diversity is reflected, however, in the largely white, male ownership in the highly regulated industry. That is something two Clark County commissioners are trying to change.

Commissioners Tick Segerblom and William McCurdy II have proposed a cannabis social equity program to make sure minorities are represented in the industry, particularly with its pending expansion into consumption lounges.

“The industry is incredibly white,” Segerbloom told State of Nevada. “And a lot of white men have gotten very, very wealthy the past few years because the industry has gone legal.”

Segerbloom said he envisions a system that takes a portion of marijuana tax revenues “and spends it on things like social equity, cleaning people's records up, immigration, and things like that.”

He said that dovetails with the Legislature's move this year toward making more dispensary licenses available to minorities.

The lack of diversity in the industry stems, in part, Segerblom said from the high financial barriers put in place when marijuana became a legal industry.

“I was there at the beginning,” said Segerblom, who pushed for marijuana legalization as an influential state senator. “What we wanted to do is to make sure that the people that started the business had the financial resources so that they would be independent. We didn't want to have any people have to sell things out the back door or cut corners.”

He said the rules were put in place to ensure integrity for the industry and were “not consciously done to promote whites over blacks or browns. but that was the net result.

“And so since we now know what the net result was, we can affirmatively try to correct that.”

Segerblom said the place to address the issue is the pending launch of consumption lounges, where marijuana customers can sample their purchases.

“With lounges now opening up a new part of the business, which wasn't available before, this is an opportune time to try to rectify the injustice,” he said.

Cannabis industry consultant A’esha Goins said she agrees with Segerblom that the current situation arose because the state was being fiscally prudent, but “that's not how it feels” to many in the minority community.

“It's very disheartening when you're told you can be a consumer, but you can't be an owner,” she said.

Goins, who is supportive of the county’s efforts, is developing a pathway to ownership program for members of the minority community to become part of the marijuana industry.

“What we're looking to do is take participants and walk them through the application process with mentors from the cannabis industry,” she said.


Tick Segerblom, Clark County commissioner, District E; A’esha Goins, founder, Black Joy Consulting

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.