Grow, Gift, Repair

Advocacy still needed at the state level!

In December 2017, Rizk was pressing ahead with plans to open a cannabis coffeehouse in the city, to be called Cafe Vert. But since then, she has put her business idea on hold, and the CCC’s vote hasn’t spurred Rizk to resume her efforts.

“I’m not eager to jump out at the first sign,” Rizk said. “There’s certain conditions that I would need.”

In addition to approving the social consumption regulations, the CCC voted to approve regulations for the home delivery of recreational marijuana that mandate the use of body cameras. It also voted to do away with the $50 annual patient registration fee for medical marijuana patients.

Both social consumption and home delivery still have some hurdles before applicants can start applying for licenses. The application process for delivery licenses still has to be created, and the legislature would need to change state law to allow cities and towns to authorize social consumption in their communities.

The latter hurdle affected Rizk directly. She formed a committee in 2018 to put approving social consumption on the ballot in Easthampton.

However, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office squelched her effort, ruling that there was no proper legal process to do so.

Rizk is currently the general manager at Holyoke Cannabis, a prospective recreational marijuana retailer that’s seeking a license from the CCC to open a dispensary in Holyoke. As an activist, she helped City Councilor Owen Zaret draft legislation that would set aside retail licenses in Easthampton for equity applicants.

In order to resume her efforts with Cafe Vert, Rizk said that she would need a funding partner. She also said that the political environment would need to be right and that it would depend on whether social consumption spaces could sell marijuana, and how much they could sell.

Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, has filed legislation to allow for municipal governments to authorize social consumption spaces absent a ballot measure.

“This is meant to be clarifying language,” Cyr said.

Cyr filed the bill because his district, which includes Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and much of Cape Cod, has a number of tourist communities in it, and those visiting are unable to use marijuana.

“There’s no legal place to consume it,” he said.

The new CCC regulations provide for up to 12 communities to participate in a pilot program for hosting social consumption sites. Amherst, North Adams, Springfield, Provincetown and Somerville participated in a working group on social consumption set up by the CCC and could choose to participate in the pilot as well.

“We’re exploring whether or not we want to,” said Geoff Kravitz, Amherst’s economic development director. “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”

Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said the city doesn’t have the administrative capacity to be one of the pilot communities.

“It’s just not in our best interest,” the mayor said. She said, however, that she “is not at all against social consumption.”

Part of the regulations approved by the CCC for social consumption licenses limits them to businesses with majority ownership from microbusinesses, which are small resident-owned businesses, economic empowerment priority applicants, craft marijuana cooperatives and social equity program participants.

A two-year carve-out period will also apply to home delivery licenses, with only economic empowerment priority applicants, social equity program participants and microbusinesses with an endorsement from the commission being able to get them.

“It’s needed,” said Rizk, who is a woman of color, on the carve-out period.

After this two-year period, the CCC will decide whether to extend the exclusivity for the cannabis cafe licenses for an additional year.