FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 30, 2023
Advocates applaud state legislators for reaching deal that could finally move cannabis equity fund forward
Grant & loan program for communities harmed by war on drugs has been mired by delays since creation, including supplemental budget debate
BOSTON — Democratic Massachusetts House and Senate leaders announced a deal on the stalled FY 2023 closeout supplemental budget that includes funding for the Commonwealth’s emergency shelter system, collective bargaining agreements, as well as other spending and policy priorities.
The bill will also finally enable the Executive Office of Economic Development to launch a new grant and loan program for cannabis entrepreneurs from communities harmed by the war on drugs created more than a year ago but delayed by a technical issue requiring a legislative fix.
Of the 600 operational cannabis business licenses as of Nov. 9, Economic Empowerment applicants hold 4% of licenses (25) and Social Equity Program participants hold only 7% (42).
Equitable Opportunities Now Policy Co-Chair Kevin Gilnack praised legislators for reaching a compromise that could help save small businesses and jobs in communities harmed by the war on drugs and urged quick passage of language that will transfer money from the Marijuana Regulation Fund to the Cannabis Social Equity Fund and enabling EOED to launch the application process.
“Language in this bill will unlock millions of dollars to be reinvested back into communities that have been torn apart by over-policing and the war on drugs — and it couldn’t come a minute too soon,” said Gilnack. “The loans and grants this program will provide can help save businesses and jobs before the holidays, but only if all legislators put the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents first by quickly passing this bill in an informal session.”
Because negotiations on the bill have carried over into the Legislature’s holiday break, all bills must be passed in an informal session where any single legislator can object and prevent it from passing, and Republican legislators have indicated they may do so without compromise on other sections of the budget bill.
“Struggling entrepreneurs have been waiting too long to endure further delays for assistance promised more than a year ago, and it is unfair to inflict further uncertainty and put more businesses and jobs at risk if Republican lawmakers insist on holding up emergency shelter funding,” said Gilnack. “We appreciate the leadership that Gov. Maura Healey, Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Spilka have shown in advancing the cannabis equity fund fix since September and urge legislative leaders to deliver overdue relief for equity businesses in a standalone bill if Republicans refuse to advance the supplemental budget bill.”
Despite the Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering an equitable industry, the Cannabis Social Equity Fund was only created last year — six years after voters approved Questiohas n 4 and yet EOED has been unable to issue a single loan or grant, or even open up an application process.
Equitable Opportunities Now (EON)’s mission is to ensure equitable ownership and employment opportunities for Black and Brown communities who have been targeted by the War on Drugs. We are seeking general support funding for our constituent-led statewide legislative and regulatory advocacy campaigns to create equitable economic opportunities in MA’s cannabis industry. Learn more at www.masseon.com