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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).



marijuana cannabusiness caucus


I’ll start with a list.

These words will not appear in the following editorial:
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.


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

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?



Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.



Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?


At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.



Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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