Cannabis Control Commission Policy What's Happening

CCC launches 4th cohort of its Social Equity Program

The Cannabis Control Commission began accepting applications for the fourth cohort of its Social Equity Program (SEP) starting Monday, February 5.

The SEP, the first of its kind in the nation, is a free, statewide technical assistance and training program that creates sustainable pathways into the regulated cannabis industry for individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs, including disproportionate arrest and incarceration as the result of marijuana prohibition.

“We are thrilled to welcome a new cohort of participants to join our Social Equity Program. To date, more than 800 individuals have engaged and continue to benefit from the program,” said Acting Chair Ava Callender Concepcion. “As equity remains at the forefront of our work here at the Commission, this development is especially exciting coming on the heels of the Commission effectuating long sought after regulations to implement the Commonwealth’s historical cannabis equity reform law.”

The Commission first launched the Social Equity Program in 2018 in accordance with the nation’s first legislative mandate to require full participation in the regulated cannabis marketplace by communities that have been disproportionately harmed by prohibition. Since then, the program has evolved over three cohorts to offer remote training and technical assistance, including new, advanced coursework.

“The advanced course curricula the Commission launched last year is aimed at sustaining a successful cannabis business in the Commonwealth—an update that came as the direct result of SEP participant feedback,” said Acting Executive Director Debbie Hilton-Creek. “We will continue to rely on residents from harmed communities to engage with us about how we can enhance our application process and programmatic offerings to meet all applicants where they are and their goals for the industry.”

Participants who are approved after meeting at least one program criteria will have the option of completing ongoing training along four, self-selected tracks:

  • Entrepreneur: Those seeking licensure and ownership;
  • Core: Those interested in cannabis careers at the managerial and executive level;
  • Entry: Those seeking entry level positions in marijuana establishments or are entering the workforce with 0-2 years of experience; and
  • Ancillary: Those with existing skills directly transferable to supporting cannabis businesses.

Training and technical assistance coursework will begin this fall, tailored to applicants’ individual tracks. Tracks incorporate both universal material that all applicants can use to navigate the legal industry, as well as instruction specific to certain Marijuana Establishment license types. This allows participants to seek courses based on their preference to own, manage, work within, or alongside cannabis businesses.

Coursework is delivered virtually via the Commission’s learning management system, TalentLMS. The online format ensures training continuity and provides schedule flexibility that some participants require. Participants will have continuous access to training materials from their cohort, as well as any new materials that are added in the future.

In addition to training and technical assistance, upon joining SEP, all accepted participants gain immediate access to expedited review by licensing staff when they submit a license application; certain fee reductions and waivers; and exclusive access to Social Consumption (when available) and delivery licenses for at least a three-year period. Participants also benefit from a pre-certification process that enables the Commission to confirm an entity’s propensity to open a Marijuana Establishment before they apply for a license that can assist license applicants with obtaining lease agreements, other local level approvals, and investment opportunities.

Along with the first-ever Advanced Course Curricula available to all SEP cohorts, the Commission has updated the communities designated as Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIAs), a geographic area identified as disproportionately harmed by historically high rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration related to marijuana crimes. As a result, residents of Lawrence and Great Brook Valley within Worcester (census tract 7320.01) may be eligible to participate in the SEP for the first time.

The Commission also recently approved and is in the process of implementing regulatory changes in accordance with Chapter 180 of the Acts of 2022: An Act Relative to Equity in The Cannabis Industry that will lower barriers to entry and level the playing field for SEP Participants in the regulated marijuana industry. Among the reforms, the Commission now has oversight of local contracts between host communities and license applicants and requires inclusive licensing policies at the municipal level. The agency also ended blanket prohibitions that once prevented people with criminal records from obtaining certain jobs in the legal marketplace, in accordance with state law.

For more information about the program or the application, visit the Commission’s Social Equity Program FAQ or Equity Page at MassCannabisControl.Com/EquityPrograms, contact the Commission by phone (774-415-0200) or email (Commission@CCCMass.Com), or follow the agency on Facebook and X.