Solidarity for Cannabis Equity


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2022
Contact: Shanel Lindsay at shanel@masseon.com or 847.445.1127

Community leaders, advocates praise historic equity provisions in new cannabis law signed by Gov. Baker
Cannabis equity grant and loan fund, municipal incentives, and host community reform process will break down barriers for entrepreneurs of color to participate in legal cannabis market


BOSTON –  Gov. Charlie Baker today signed an omnibus cannabis reform bill that will significantly expand equitable participation in the industry, and which was passed by the Massachusetts House and Senate nearly six years after voters approved Question 4, just hours before the end of their legislative session.

After years of advocacy by community leaders, entrepreneurs, Cannabis Control Commissioners and legislators over several sessions since the 2016 ballot question, the bill will create a new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund that will channel tens of millions of dollars to grants and low-interest loans for cannabis businesses started by people from the communities most harmed by the war on drugs every year using 15% of cannabis tax revenue.

“Massachusetts made history with a nation-leading economic empowerment law when they legalized cannabis with Question 4, and nearly six years later, Gov. Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature have made history with this vital — and overdue — grant and loan fund,” said Equitable Opportunities Now Co-Founder and Question 4 Co-Author Shanel Lindsay. “This bill is an important step forward in undoing the harms of prohibition and over-policing and will provide an important path for families of color to create jobs in their community and generate generational wealth. We’re so grateful for all the work that Cannabis Policy Chairs Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Rep. Dan Donahue and so many other legislators to advance the provisions in this bill and the commitment to equity Senate President Spilka and Speaker Mariano have demonstrated by getting this to the finish line.”

“This law will rebalance the playing field, where so far wealthy corporations have been able buy their way through the licensing process and too many local, small business owners and Black and brown entrepreneurs have been locked out,” said Cannabis Policy Co-Chair Sonia Chang-Diaz. “The reforms and funding we fought so hard for will be game changers, putting Massachusetts back among the leading states for racial justice in our economic policy on cannabis. I’m so grateful to the many community members and grassroots leaders who came together and held the state’s feet to the fire to make this happen.”

The bill will also create incentives and accountability for municipalities to prioritize equity in their local licensing process and reforms host community agreements (HCAs) between cities and towns and cannabis businesses, which have been criticized as being excessive and, in some cases, corrupt.

“The racial wealth gap was created by systemic racism and the institutional barriers that inhibited the success local entrepreneurs of color, and the spirit of equitable economic opportunity in the emerging Massachusetts cannabis industry has not yet been realized,” said The Boston Foundation Vice President of Communications & Public Affairs Keith A. Mahoney, Esq. “By reforming HCAs, creating financial incentives for municipalities to license equity applicants, and incorporating equity into the local licensing process, this step will improve the ability for equitable participation in the cannabis market.”

The bill will also fix a legal technicality that will clear the way for licensing for social cannabis consumption and improve access to expungements and industry participation by formerly incarcerated people.

“Equitable economic opportunity and social justice were at the heart of Question 4 when we helped to write and pass the ballot question, and we are so grateful to Gov. Baker for signing this landmark legislation, and to Chairs Sen. Chang-Diaz and Rep. Donahue, Sens. Adam Gomez and Nick Collins, Reps. Chynah Tyler and Dan Hunt, and so many other legislators who have worked since 2016 to advance the policies in this bill since 2016 and make that goal a reality, ” said Shanel Lindsay of Equitable Opportunities Now. “This law will open the door to jobs, business ownership, and generational wealth for our most marginalized communities. Legislators, voters, and all the advocates who spoke out on this should be proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in advancing cannabis equity.

A coalition led by Equitable Opportunities Now and including ACLU of Massachusetts, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Foundation for Business Equity, and The Boston Foundation has worked for more than two two-year sessions to advance these policies and ensure the final bill included strong equity provisions.

A full list of those who signed a letter to legislative leaders and conferees urging the to fully fund cannabis equity and adopt key equity provisions includes and/or to Gov. Baker urging him to sign the bill includes:
    •    Shanel Lindsay, Equitable Opportunities Now, Ardent, LLC, & Question 4 Ballot Question Team
    •    Betty Francisco, Boston Impact Initiative
    •    Darien Johnson, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
    •    Eric Leslie, Union Capital Boston
    •    Glynn Lloyd, Foundation for Business Equity
    •    Keith A. Mahoney, Esq., The Boston Foundation
    •    Mike Ryan, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
    •    Shaleen Title, Parabola Center
    •    Ross Bradshaw, New Dia (Social Equity Licensee)
    •    Devin Alexander, Rolling Releaf (Social Equity Licensee)
    •    Medford City Council Vice President Zac Bears
    •    Cara Crabb-Burnham, CCB Consulting LLC
    •    Bill Downing
    •    Kobie Evans, Pure Oasis
    •    Kevin B. Gilnack, Equitable Opportunities Now, Question 4 Ballot Question Team, & KG Consulting
    •    Donna Haghighat, The Women’s Fund of Western MA
    •    Kevin Hart, Pure Oasis
    •    Geneise Israel, Oasis of Tranquility
    •    Kizzy Key, High Thirst (Social equity participant)
    •    Dr. Marion McNabb, Cannabis Center of Excellence and CEO, 510 Innovations
    •    Keniesha Mendes, Social Equity participant
    •    Gary Perry, Tiny Trap Concerts, Social Equity Participant
    •    Kimberly Napoli, Esq., Social Equity Program Participant, Yes on 4 Campaign, Cannabis Advisory Board
    •    Linda Noel, Terrapin Farm (Social Equity Program participant)
    •    Tom Nolan, Ed., Emmanuel College, Question 4 Ballot Question Team
    •    KP Owens, Terrapin Farm (Social Equity Program participant)
    •    David Rabinovitz, CannaVentureLabs.com, former social equity trainer for Cannabis Control Commission
    •    Nairoby Sanchez, Mass CultivatED
    •    Eve Santana, Equitable Opportunities Now 
    •    Grant Smith Ellis, Grassroots Advocate
    •    Armani White, Equitable Opportunities Now and Firehouse (Economic Empowerment Priority Applicant)
    •    Sean Berte, Firehouse (Economic Empowerment Priority Applicant)
    •    Jordan Mackenzie Whittaker, Equitable Opportunities Now, The Weedaker Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 28, 2022

Contact: Shanel Lindsay at shanel@masseon.com or 847.445.1127

More than 20 community leaders call on legislative leaders, Conference Committee to fully fund cannabis equity program and pass reform bill before end of session

Letter from Equitable Opportunities Now, ACLU, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Boston Impact Initiative, Foundation for Business Equity, The Boston Foundation, Union Capital Boston  & other advocates cites urgent need to support local entrepreneurs and reform local licensing

BOSTON – Following the appointment of an all-white conference committee to negotiate differences between House and Senate cannabis reform bills, more than 20 community leaders signed on to a letter urging legislators to fully fund social equity programs and include key equity provisions from each bill.

“It is deeply troubling that none of the legislators of color in either chamber who championed these issues will be at the table to decide how accessible this new industry will be to local entrepreneurs of color and from communities most harmed by the war on drugs,” said Equitable Opportunities Now Co-Founder and Question 4 Co-Author Shanel Lindsay. “Now, the spotlight is on Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ron Mariano and conferees to deliver a bill that reflects their stated commitment to equity.”

With less than five weeks of formal legislative sessions remaining, advocates stressed the need for the conference committee to finish its work and report out a final bill by July 10 to ensure legislators have time to address any line-item vetoes or amendments from the Governor.

“Despite Question 4’s intent to foster equitable participation in the Massachusetts cannabis market, for the last six years, well-financed operators from out of state have dominated the industry,” said Black Economic Council of Massachusetts Policy and Advocacy Lead Darien Johnson. “We join our community partners in urging the Conference Committee to get this bill done on time and to get it done right – Black and Brown entrepreneurs cannot afford to wait for another two year session.”

Massachusetts cannabis legalization statute calls for excess cannabis revenue to go to five priorities, including “programming for restorative justice.” While the House allocated the full 20% of excess cannabis revenue to such programs, the Senate bill only allocates half that amount.

“The legislature recognized the need to promote equity in the development of our Commonwealth’s cannabis industry, and failure to follow through on that commitment would have lasting harm,” said The Boston Foundation Vice President of Communications & Public Affairs Keith A. Mahoney, Esq. “We ask the conferees to equitably fund programs for restorative justice and meet the twenty-percent minimum proposed by the House.”

In addition to establishing a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, the cannabis reform bills make important changes that improve equity at the local licensing program, enables social consumption licensing, and improves access to expungement.

“When the ACLU helped write Question 4, our intent was to foster equity in the licensing process – not just at the state level, but at every level – and we hope the Conference Committee will strengthen local equity provisions and incentives,” said ACLU of Massachusetts Deputy Legislative Director Mike Ryan. “It is vital that the Cannabis Control Commission and applicants have all the tools they need to ensure these agreements are fair moving forward.”

Click here to read the full community letter to legislative leaders. The letter’s recommendations include:

  • Fully and fairly fund the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund by adopting House language directing 20% of excess cannabis revenue
  • Empower disproportionately harmed community members to determine how cannabis revenue is reinvested in their community by adopting Senate language that grants Trust’s board authority to promulgate regulations and empowers the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development to approve and implement those regulations
  • Ensure municipalities have a consistent standard for promoting equity in local licensing by empowering the CCC & supporting accountability
    • Bolster the financial incentive to municipalities that host social equity businesses by increasing the additional 1% of revenue offered to communities that host equity businesses to 3%
    • Adopt Senate language empowering the CCC to establish rules and promulgate regulations for host communities. 
    • Adopt House language that would withhold community impact fees from communities that fail to adopt equity policies
  • Improve accountability and fairness in community impact fee dispute resolution by adopting provisions from House and Senate bills
    • Adopt Senate language requiring the CCC to “develop a model host community agreement
    • Adopt Senate language affirming licensees’ right to pursue a civil action regarding unreasonable community impact fees and House language enabling licensees to petition the CCC to review the community impact costs
    • Adopt House language empowering CCC to review past HCAs
  • Strengthen host community agreement reform with reasonable limits and deadlines by adopting House language limiting host community agreements to five years and requiring the Cannabis Control Commission to review host community agreements within 45 days
  • Ensure cannabis businesses continue to make a substantial investment in diversity and positive community impact by strengthening the Senate’s language regarding donations to the Trust Fund to include a minimum standard and progressive sliding scale to ensure large operators invest their fair share back into the community.
  • Provide clarity on the role of the CCC’s Social Equity Program and the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund by amending House language to reflect that the Program should provide training and technical assistance to help applicants navigate the Fund’s application process.

Letter signers include:

  • Shanel Lindsay, Equitable Opportunities Now, Ardent, LLC, and Question 4 Ballot Question Team
  • Betty Francisco, Boston Impact Initiative
  • Darien Johnson, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
  • Eric Leslie, Union Capital Boston
  • Glynn Lloyd, Foundation for Business Equity
  • Keith A. Mahoney, Esq., The Boston Foundation
  • Mike Ryan, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
  • Devin Alexander, Rolling Releaf (Social Equity Licensee)
  • Medford City Council Vice President Zac Bears
  • Cara Crabb-Burnham, CCB Consulting LLC
  • Kobie Evans, Pure Oasis
  • Kevin Gilnack, Equitable Opportunities Now, KG Consulting, LLC, Question 4 Ballot Question Team
  • Donna Haghighat, The Women’s Fund of Western MA
  • Kevin Hart, Pure Oasis
  • Geneise Israel, Oasis of Tranquility
  • Kizzy Key, Social equity participant 
  • Dr. Marion McNabb, Cannabis Center of Excellence
  • Keniesha Mendes, social equity participant
  • Kimberly Napoli, Esq., Vicente Sederberg, Yes on 4 Campaign, Cannabis Advisory Board
  • Tom Nolan, Ed., Emmanuel College, Question 4 Ballot Question Team
  • David Rabinovitz, CannaVentureLabs.com, former social equity trainer for Cannabis Control Commission
  • Nairoby Sanchez, Mass CultivatED
  • Eve Santana, Equitable Opportunities Now 
  • Grant Smith Ellis, Grassroots Advocate
  • Armani White, Equitable Opportunities Now and Firehouse (Economic Empowerment Priority Applicant)