Cannabis panel wants to help those hurt by pot ban

State House News Service
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

As it works to build a new industry from the ground up, state marijuana regulators on Tuesday wrestled with how Massachusetts’ newly legal marijuana industry could be more accessible to racially and economically diverse communities and how the industry could benefit groups that were disproportionately affected by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

The Cannabis Control Commission adopted the frameworks for a priority review process for license applicants that demonstrate they have or will promote economic empowerment in disproportionately harmed communities and for a program that would provide business assistance to help people from such communities establish themselves in the industry.

The programs discussed Tuesday are intended to help spread the benefits of the regulated marijuana industry to people of varying socioeconomic statuses and to help give a leg up for people who were convicted for their involvement in the formerly illicit marijuana market.

A license applicant would be eligible for priority review if they meet two of the following criteria: that a majority of the entity’s ownership belongs to people who have lived in areas of disproportionate impact for five of last 10 years, that a majority of ownership has economic empowerment experience, at least 51 percent of current employees or sub-contractors reside in areas of disproportionate impact and that number will increase to 75 percent by the beginning of business, that at least 51 percent of employees have a prior drug-related conviction or that owners can demonstrate significant past experience of economic empowerment.

“If an applicant can show they meet the criteria the commission puts in place, the applicant will move ahead in line so hopefully they can open their doors sooner,” Commissioner Shaleen Title said of the priority review proposal. “This is not a license designation ... this is about speed through the process.”

State law requires the CCC to adopt in regulation “procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

The CCC agreed to dedicate its Jan. 9 meeting to having a detailed discussion of how it will define “communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement” using arrest data and economic factors.