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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2022
CONTACT: Shanel Lindsay
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
- 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
Equitable Opportunities Now (EON) educates for and empowers people of color to become active participants in the Massachusetts legal cannabis market. 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. EON believes that in order to best address the lasting effects of prohibition, we must facilitate access. EON supports transition from the legacy to the legal market and forging a path of economic empowerment for people with past marijuana convictions and returning citizens.