Our viewpoint—Social Justice in the Cannabis Industry

The purpose of ScottsMiracle-Gro—to GroMoreGood everywhere— requires us to support initiatives designed to strengthen our communities, especially those that are underserved and underrepresented.

By being true to our purpose, we believe we can help shape a society that offers economic empowerment, belonging and justice.

Our Hawthorne Gardening Company subsidiary is North America’s largest distributor of indoor growing and hydroponic products, serving growers of all sizes. In the U.S., many of these growers cultivate cannabis in compliance with state law. As reform advances, states are struggling to confront the complex legacy of racial, social and economic inequality tied to cannabis.  Standing behind our purpose, we commit to fighting for the reforms needed to create a more just and equitable industry—one that addresses past injustices and one where all people in the U.S. have the opportunity to join and flourish.

Criminal Justice Reform for Cannabis-Related Drug Offenses

Cannabis legalization means criminal justice reforms are happening at the state level throughout the country. While much of the recent corporate action on social justice has been in response to police misconduct against persons of color, those in the cannabis industry have long been aware of disparities in policing and that has shaped the equity movement in the industry for many years. Consider:

  • People of color are nearly four times as likely as white people to be charged with marijuana possession, despite similar marijuana usage rates between both groups, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. (Source)
  • Two 2020 studies analyzing more than 100 million traffic stops found that, while vehicle searches fell following cannabis legalization, people of color still experienced a disproportionately higher risk of a traffic stop resulting in a vehicle search, due to racial profiling. (Source)

We support decriminalization for low-level cannabis-related offenses as part of establishing a legal, regulated and equitable cannabis industry. Today, two-thirds of Americans agree that marijuana use should be legal. (Source) Yet, a confusing patchwork of federal and state laws persists, exacerbating longstanding racial and economic disparities in who is arrested, prosecuted and jailed for cannabis offenses.

While legalizing cannabis and ending unfair enforcement practices is an important step, we need to go further. Today, 40,000 people are serving time in prison for cannabis-related offenses. (Source) We must also work towards enacting clemency and expungement programs for low-level cannabis-related convictions to correct the unjust outcomes of cannabis prohibition. We are committed to advancing state and federal  policy reforms needed to release people incarcerated for low-level cannabis-related offenses and to provide access to the support needed to rebuild their lives. Our support for organizations including the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project and others is intended to help achieve this reform.

Economic Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry

Business-owners of color and entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in any industry often find themselves shut out due to a lack of access to capital. This is compounded in the cannabis industry by  federal laws restricting access to financial services.  As the state-authorized cannabis industry has flourished, there are significant disparities in representation of people of color within the industry. We know that:

  • Just 1% of 3,000+ marijuana dispensaries had Black owners, according to a 2016 BuzzFeed analysis. (Source)

It is important to bring equity and diversity to the industry and ensure that the communities most harmed by the prohibition of cannabis can also benefit from its legalization. We are committed to industry efforts that assist entrepreneurs of color gain a foothold in markets where cannabis businesses are authorized by connecting them to the training, support and networks needed to thrive.

Speaking out in support of policy initiatives to help normalize funding for the cannabis industry is another important step. We continue to call on the federal government to pass legislation permitting banks and other financial institutions to serve state-authorized cannabis businesses. A fair opportunity for all to participate in this emerging market means legalization measures must allow for access to financial services. 

Our Commitment

In addition to public policy and advocacy efforts, we are mobilizing resources through The Hawthorne Social Justice Fund at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation. We are committing to investing $2.5 million over the next two years in programs that include non-profit and pro bono cannabis clemency and reentry programs; as well as job creation, entrepreneurship and increased investment opportunities in minority communities. The cannabis industry and legalization frameworks are still emerging. As they develop, we are committed to the reforms needed to create a more just and equitable industry, free from discrimination, bias and exclusion.