By Bob Katzen
Governor Baker signed into law a bill that makes changes in the cannabis industry including a section that would require the state to put some of its tax and licensing revenue from the sales of marijuana revenue into a newly created Social Equity Trust 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. The measure would also allow municipalities to vote by a local referendum or through a vote of the municipal government for social consumption of marijuana to take place in their community.
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. They noted that less than 20 (6 percent) of the 346 marijuana businesses are connected to participants in the Cannabis Control Commission’s current social equity program or economic empowerment entrepreneurs.
“I am thrilled to see this legislation become law as we continue to build a budding and more equitable cannabis industry,” said Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “Under the new law, the Cannabis Control Commission can establish guardrails on host community agreements to make sure municipalities don’t extort cannabis enterprises. The technical adjustments in the law allow for communities to pursue social consumption sites if they wish. With the signing of [this bill], we better reflect the intentions behind the voter referenda and assure an equitable and vibrant homegrown cannabis industry.”
The vision of the drafters of the legalization initiative to address the harms of the war on cannabis is now more fully realized,” said Will Luzier, former campaign manager for the 2016 marijuana legalization campaign. “The pathways to participate in the cannabis industry for those harmed by the war on drugs are clearer and the prospect of social consumption is now reachable. Cities and towns that have skirted the law by overreaching host community agreements will now be properly policed.”