In a letter to West Virginia’s top cannabis regulator, the Democratic Women’s Caucus of the House of Delegates said they are concerned that forthcoming processor and dispensary licensees will follow the same trend as the grower permits – “all white and male led businesses.”
The letter to Jason Frame, director of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Medical Cannabis, notes that none of the owners of the 10 businesses approved to cultivate cannabis for the program are female, minority, or BIPOC.
The signatories call for more “transparency on who is making these decisions and if diversity in ownership is part of the conversation.”
“We believe that it is vital as this burgeoning industry takes off in West Virginia to ensure that women, minorities and people of color also see the impact of these economic opportunities. We, as a state, should also be doing all we can to promote and support West Virginia owned businesses. We are not sure that the selection of these 10 applicants shows that either of these priorities were taken into account.” – Democratic Women’s Caucus of the West Virginia House of Delegates’ letter to Jason Frame, Oct. 22, 2020
The permits were issued earlier this month and, at that time, Frame said the Scoring Review Team used by the state to make license recommendations were not required to give preference to businesses headquartered in the state. Frame indicated that just 4 of the 10 approved firms are “majority-owned” by West Virginians.
Frame said the scoring team considered operational and security plans, plans to prevent product diversion, and the background and education of applicants.
Of the 32 businesses denied medical cannabis cultivation permits, 13 had principal offices in the state with residents as managers and directors, and five included a mix of West Virginians and out-of-state interests.
The women’s caucus is chaired by Del. Cindy Lavender-Bowe, and includes Del. Sammi Brown, Del. Amanda Estep-Burton, Del. Barbara Fleischauer, Del. Linda Longstreth, Del. Margaret Staggers, Del. Danielle Walker, and Del. Lisa Zukoff.