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Opinion Editorials

As marijuana business blows up, minorities are getting burned

(EDITORIAL) The marijuana business is getting whiter and the odds are stacking higher against minorities (not just blacks).

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marijuana cannabusiness caucus

Nope

I’ll start with a list.

bar
These words will not appear in the following editorial:
Weed
Pot
Stoned
“Cannabusiness”
Any other smirking, behind-the-hand Cheech and Chong nonsense about c. sativa.

Marijuana’s not a joke. It’s an industry.

How big depends on how you count, but at a bare minimum, eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

69,672,345 Americans, roughly a fifth of the country, can use, grow and, with proper licensing, sell cannabis and its associated products.

This is grownup business, and it’s time to talk like it.

Adult talk

Over at BuzzFeed, Amanda Chicago Lewis has been doing exactly that, calling out what she has identified as a serious racial skew in the legal marijuana business.

Short version: under federal law, marijuana is still illegal, period.

All the way up in Schedule 1, legally defined as “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” When state laws disagree, marijuana becomes legal to use and sell within an acceptable regulatory framework.

Note “acceptable.”

As everyone who has had a boss, a significant other, a roommate, indeed any significant interaction with another h. sapiens has learned, the definition of “acceptable” varies from person to person and group to group.

Group standards become good practice, and good practice, as often as not, becomes law.

That said, when standards change, practice sometimes fails to follow. Per Pew Research, 57% of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization, and, in the “demographics are destiny” department, that number rises to a ludicrous 71 percent among people under 40. That’s definitely a different standard.

What about practice?

What do we do with the unavoidable fact that a substantial segment of drug offenses, far and away the most common reason for American citizens to be incarcerated (50% of federal prisoners and 20% of state prisoners were convicted of drug offenses) has become something Starbucks could do if it wanted?

Not much, Amanda Chicago Lewis says, and she has numbers to back it up. Not enough.

The racial imbalances that play themselves out in American life and American justice are imposing themselves on this new business opportunity, and this is our chance to fix it.

Ms. Lewis focuses in particular on the stories of Americans victimized by a perverse irony: people convicted of using or selling marijuana who, due to their convictions, are now legally or economically barred from selling marijuana. They don’t have rap sheets anymore, they have resumes, but banks and regulatory bodies alike don’t make that distinction.

It’d be funny if it weren’t hurting people.

It is. Badly.

That’s just the cover of the book.

It’s no secret that serious racial disparity exists in the American justice system: black and Hispanic Americans in particular are targeted more, arrested more and sentenced more harshly than white ones. What causes our system to fail in that way and how to go about fixing it are questions well beyond the scope of this article, but the facts are, to pick a loaded idiom, in black and white.

As the ACLU data shows, people of different races abuse drugs at roughly the same rate.

Go figure, we’re human.

But everyone from the ACLU to the Washington Post to the Department of Justice itself acknowledges that minority citizens are disproportionately convicted of drug offenses, receive harsher sentences, and experience greater consequences in post-prison life.

In the form it’s taking now, the marijuana industry runs a serious risk of replicating that injustice.

If that’s too uncomfortable, try it in the abstract.

Imagine this

It’s the Thirties, and you’re in a speakeasy. Louis Armstrong is up on the bandstand playing low and slow. There’s Bogart smoke curling around every light, and a guy/doll is giving you the eye, fixing to get you into just the right kind of trouble. Then Mugsy books it up the back stairs.

Feds! Scram!

You just make the door. Your last sight through the smoke is Charlie, your best barkeep, one hand up and the other cuffed.
It’s a year later. Volstead’s off the books, thank goodness. A familiar face shows up at your office, one with a lot more lines in it.

It’s Charlie. He’s out.

He’s got his bar back, because he’s an amazing bar owner. Of course he’s an amazing bar owner. He kept his joint above water when advertising would get him locked up and his suppliers were psychopaths. All he needs is a liquor license. So you smile, and stamp DENIED, because he’s a felon.

That’s not a twisted joke. It’s what’s happening right now.

Marijuana misfits

We’re in the early days of legal American marijuana. That’s when action is most important.

It’s still possible to model our values in our business decisions without establishment inertia.

Regulations that ban nonviolent drug offenders from working in the marijuana industry, licensing agencies that fail to approve them, and banks that won’t lend to them are failing their clients, their country and plain common sense.

Worse, with no ill intent, simply an outdated assumption – “felon equals unemployable” instead of “felon equals professional experience in the relevant field” – they’re perpetuating the racial injustice already inflicted on far too many American citizens.

The ball is rolling on legalization, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

But marijuana was never just a legal issue. It was a cultural one, pinballing from failed policy to racially skewed enforcement to thousands of suffering Americans.

No repeats

As legal marijuana becomes part of American life, it is vital we address it with an eye to what made prohibition, indeed Prohibition, such a trainwreck in the first place.

If we fail in that obligation, we’ll end up right back in the Roaring Twenties, when the richest and whitest Gatsbied it up with great gouts of their nominally illegal tipple of choice, while single bottles of the same ruined the lives of poor people, people of color, and above all both.

We can do this better. Let’s.

#ModernProhibition

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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