By Bob Katzen
The Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that makes changes in the cannabis industry including creating a social equity fund, to provide grants and loans, including forgivable and no-interest loans, designed to assist entrepreneurs and businesses from communities disproportionately harmed by the decades of marijuana prohibition.
Another key provision would permit cities and towns, either through a voter referendum or by an act of the City Council or Board of Selectman, to allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where they are sold.
Supporters explained that opening an average cannabis retail shop can require up to $1.5 million. They noted that since federal cannabis laws prevent these businesses from accessing traditional bank loans, lack of capital can pose an insurmountable barrier.
“I’m proud that when the Senate and the Legislature legalized the commercial marijuana industry in 2017, we prioritized the creation of a first-in-the-nation equity program,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “Unfortunately, many barriers continue to prevent those historically harmed by marijuana prohibition from entering the industry. Today’s bill takes important steps to address these by providing resources to support social equity businesses and putting guardrails in place on the Host Community Agreement process.”
“When we passed recreational cannabis legislation five years ago, we sought to ensure the commonwealth’s budding cannabis industry would be equitable, diverse, and have ample avenues of entry for small-scale and Black and Brown-led entrepreneurship,” said Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Regrettably, the Legislature’s intention to build an industry rooted in social justice has not yet been fully realized. Today we are living up to that promise by establishing guardrails on host-community agreements, allowing communities interested in pursuing social consumption sites to do so, and empowering a strong, vibrant, local cannabis industry with a robust cannabis equity fund.”
“Limiting the cost of operation is part of promoting social equity and repairing harm to communities harmed by War On Drugs, by lowering one of many barriers to entry with the host community agreement reform in this bill,” said Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). “I hope this new bill is even clearer in stating the intent of the law and the ability of the Cannabis Control Commission to achieve the goals of promoting social equity. High costs of cannabis have helped preserve the illicit market for cannabis and this bill will take significant steps to expand business opportunities and lower costs across the commonwealth.”