On March 31, New York officially became the 16th state to legalize adult-use cannabis. The state is now the second largest in terms of population to allow sales of the drug, which is still illegal at the federal level. Two important facets of new conversations about state legalization are equitable treatment of those currently incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes and the inclusion of underrepresented groups and minorities in the rise of the industry. 

The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (OTC:HMLSF) has jumped over 100% over the last 12 months, and shows few signs of slowing down. Why is it so important that diversity and inclusion are prioritized in the rise of pot stocks? Dr. Chanda Macias is a medical cannabis advocate, researcher, and dispensary owner. She joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina on a March 19 episode of Fool Live to discuss the importance of a diverse leadership of the up and coming industry.

Corinne Cardina: I want to talk a little bit about Women Grow and what your purpose is with this group, and a follow up to that, what has it been like for you as you build your career in this space and what changes would you make to make it a more inclusive environment for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups?

Dr. Chanda Macias: Thank you for that, Corinne. Corinne, it was very interesting. Back in 2014, 50 women came together and formed this group called Women Grow. They functioned within the nation and helped women and pivot their voices in the cannabis industry to make sure we weren't an industry we were left behind in. So with that, I remember when I started my journey in cannabis, I didn't really have the insight knowledge on how to operate. I know all principles but there are some things that are specific in business that was not available to me. When you think about ERP software, when you think about patient relations, things that we're being done in California that we just didn't have access to. I went to my local Women Grow chapter in Washington D.C. at the time and I had a list of questions on how to get into the industry, how to navigate this, how to do the community involvement, all these great things and literally, they broke everything down for me in these informational sessions that they offered during their networking events. It was so imperative and, I'm going to say, impactful to my projectory as a woman in the industry where when it was the time to give back, I went right back into the organization and said, ''I'm going to make sure that women all over the nation have this platform to learn and to get involved in the industry.'' Right now, we're going through a significant rebranding and rebuilding we're excited about so we can have a stronger reach across the nation in empowering women. But that's how I became involved because it truly helped me at the time, just owning a retail operation but also help pivot me into now owning cultivation, processing, retail in multiple states. If I think about that, that diversity, inclusion is so important because I love working with women that have minds, and we are different from our male counterparts but we are definitely the nurturers for patients. We're definitely the catalyst in improvement. These are the things that we can offer, and our intelligence and knowledge, to the cannabis industry, especially why it continues to emerge? Corinne, just to answer the second part of your question, which is diversity inclusion, what that looks for me, I thought it was important though, still staying on this platform of how cannabis can do good in the community after it has impacted negatively in some communities. So with my license in Louisiana, we partnered with Southern University, a historically black college and university to be able to have, of course, a profit sharing model but also to educate future generations of young talented students to learn about the industry and enter in careers in the industry. That way, we're making sure it's an inclusive involvement of all communities. I will continue to stay on these different platforms to make sure that my voice is heard locally, as well in the national level, to make sure these different communities are included in the narrative.

Corinne Cardina: Absolutely. You can't talk about the marijuana industry without acknowledging the history and the contexts, policing and mass incarceration, that's really important so I'm glad we touched on that.

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