Hopeful marijuana delivery entrepreneurs and supporters, including a couple of state representatives, huddled virtually to get on the same page and encourage advocacy ahead of a public hearing later this week that could determine what kind of delivery industry gets rolled out in Massachusetts.
Home delivery of marijuana has long been allowed under the state’s medical marijuana program, and the Cannabis Control Commission has been thinking about a non-medical delivery framework for about three years. During that time, advocates have argued that delivery-only licenses will help level the playing field between large corporations and small businesses because the barriers to entry for delivery are typically far less burdensome than those for retail licenses.
Though the CCC has approved a delivery policy, it postponed the late October vote it had planned to take to make official its new regulations — including the delivery policy — after vocal opposition from a group of state lawmakers, some municipal officials and representatives of the existing brick-and-mortar retail marijuana industry. The CCC scheduled a hearing specific to delivery for Friday and now plans to vote Nov. 30 to adopt its regulations, which could still change.
“Delivery has a chance to balance equity, where now people can really have a chance to create generational wealth, to create these businesses and go forward. But that fight is being opposed by larger groups who really want to keep the status quo. You have seen that in the last month or so with various groups coming out to oppose delivery, and really what we’re here to do is to fight and defend delivery,” Chris Fevry, co-founder of Your Green Package and president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery, said.
Social equity is a central component of the marijuana law passed by voters in 2016 and the law as rewritten by the Legislature the following year. How Massachusetts’ newly legal marijuana industry could be accessible to racially and economically diverse communities and how the industry could benefit groups that were disproportionately affected by the enforcement of marijuana prohibition has been a centerpiece of policy work in Massachusetts and at the CCC.
Still, people of color and people from communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs are the overwhelming minority in the state’s burgeoning legal cannabis world, Shanel Lindsay, who has served on the Cannabis Advisory Board and is the CEO of Ardent Life, said.
“Despite the fact that we worked tirelessly for over five years, minority ownership is almost non-existent. So yes, we should be angry and offended when, as we’re starting to make small steps towards equity in these delivery licenses, that like clockwork the same corporate interests focused only on preserving their unearned monopoly come in to push back on equity and to crush us,” she said.
Kobie Evans, who co-owns the first Massachusetts marijuana company to secure a license through the CCC’s economic empowerment process, voiced his support for the delivery framework as approved by the CCC and said moving ahead with delivery licenses is one way Massachusetts can improve its record when it comes to equity in the industry.
“We need to let the CCC know that they need to do better because so far it’s been inadequate,” Evans, who co-owns Pure Oasis in Dorchester, said. “So far, the fact that we are one of a handful of [economic empowerment] applicants that have been licensed and so far, one of only a few that’s actually been opened when the law was designed to support people like us, that’s a travesty. We need to do better as a state. We need to demand more and people need to be held accountable.”
Reps. Chynah Tyler and Lindsay Sabadosa voiced their support for the delivery cause Monday, with Tyler telling the prospective entrepreneurs that she would be willing to step in and try to address delivery issues through the Legislature, though she said that would be less than ideal.
“I’ll be there every step of the way trying to figure out how we can make sure that these regulations work for everyone,” Tyler, who represents parts of Roxbury and the Fenway, said. “Because I can tell you right now that if this issue doesn’t get addressed by the date that the board is going to vote on it, it can very well go backwards and turn into the hands of the state Legislature and we might have to create a bill around it.”
The CCC’s delivery policy would create two delivery license types: a “marijuana delivery operator” that could buy products wholesale from growers and manufacturers and sell them to their own customers, and a “marijuana courier” that would allow an operator to charge a fee to make deliveries from CCC-licensed retailers and dispensaries.
The CCC also intends to launch delivery with a period of exclusivity for participants in its Social Equity Program and certified economic empowerment applicants.
“Consumers want delivery, we wanted delivery for a long time, and equity and economic empowerment businesses are ready to be a significant part of this market,” Commissioner Shaleen Title said when the commission adopted the delivery framework. She added, “We as a commission have taken it very seriously since day one … to live up to this mandate to include disproportionately harmed people in the industry and today was another significant step towards that. I’m really looking forward to it becoming reality sometime next year.”
Before it voted to adopt the delivery structure, the CCC released the public feedback it received and summarized comments related to the regulations, and the documents showed a stark divide — one portion of commenters generally proposed tweaks to what the CCC had adopted while the other portion tended to argue that what the CCC adopted is either in conflict with state law or is the result of a rushed process that left municipalities out.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association opposed the wholesale delivery license type, local officials told the CCC they were worried about what delivery would mean for marijuana tax revenue, the Commonwealth Dispensary Association said it thought the CCC went too quickly and asked for more time to “develop a compromise,” and a group of state lawmakers called on the CCC to delay its vote, which the CCC has done until Nov. 30.
In a letter last month, a bipartisan group of 19 state lawmakers told the CCC that they “believe that the wholesale delivery license category proposed in the draft regulations was not contemplated, nor supported, by the enabling legislation” and that “the proposed draft regulations have not had the opportunity to be sufficiently reviewed and may result in unintended consequences to our municipalities.”
CCC Chairman Steven Hoffman has said the CCC is convinced that it has the legal authority to introduce the marijuana delivery operator license.