The true point of having a voice is to offer a different perspective.

One general issue throughout the cannabis industry is minorities getting access to funds because most minorities don’t have networks or even friends and family that can help them get started. I entered this space as an entrepreneur and, because I was an athlete, I have friends that have resources. The people that already have the resources also already have a head start.

However, there tends to be a higher barrier of entry for minorities.

Minorities also have to deal with a greater stigma surrounding cannabis, which affects minorities more powerfully than non-minorities. For minorities, there’s a bigger taboo; like our parents thinking we’re already at a disadvantage—‘don’t do cannabis, it’s going to ruin your life.’ For white families, they’re just like, ‘it’s just a phase.’ The stigma of cannabis consumption is heavier for minorities.

The cannabis space is great because it’s new and there’s room for additional innovation. For example, social equity is something we can build into policies and regulations as we move forward. We can say the war on drugs negatively affected minority communities in greater ways than others, and that’s a conversation that we could have right now, but the question is: What are we going to do about it? To achieve social equity, we really have to think of how this industry can approach the equation differently.

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Ricky Williams, president and co-founder of Highsman.

Social equity comes down to education. The imbalance is really around educational opportunities. It’s not enough to just offer people jobs; you need to offer them opportunities to educate themselves so they can make sure they’re competent enough to succeed in those positions.

Success in this space also means, in part, that the people who need cannabis as medicine are getting access to it. Part of that is building a business and the other part is marketing—how do we get people’s attention and let them know that this is available to them?

With cannabis, another issue is overcoming the stigma of the plant itself. How do we get people to recognize that this medicine is actually good for them? I am passionate about storytelling and telling a compelling story that will help people realize that cannabis is going to add to the quality of their lives. If you do that, then you solve the business issue because if you show people that you can provide them something that’s increasing their quality of life, they will come back.

To me, Highsman is about this idea of sparking greatness. If we can get consumers to associate our brand with being better and with moving towards greatness, then I think that’s something that is valuable and they will keep coming back for more. To succeed in the long run in the cannabis industry, you need to really connect to your audience so they can see what you’re providing for them is benefiting them.

What is so wonderful about this time in the industry’s infancy is that what was once on the fringe is now being integrated into American culture. As we move forward, the responsibility of the legal cannabis industry is to build this culture that’s going to exist for perpetuity. That is why I’m excited about Highsman—because we have the opportunity to create what that culture looks like when it comes to cannabis, sports and beyond.

Ricky Wiliams is president and co-founder of Highsman.