Grow, Gift, Repair

Boston City Council hearing recap

“Zero economic empowerment applicants have made it entirely through the licensing process thus far,” Joe Gilmore, a community outreach director of at the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, said at a city hearing on Tuesday.

“The economic empowerment applicants I know can’t even get an email response from the city,” Gilmore added.

Though it’s been more than two years since Massachusetts voters supported legalizing recreational marijuana, the city of Boston has no retail shops open. With two medical dispensaries open and pending host agreements with six retail marijuana stores and a manufacturing facility, Boston has been slow to regulate and license any recreational marijuana shops.

Members of the Boston City Council Committee on Government Operations took up the issue on Tuesday while discussing a progressive ordinance sponsored by Councilor Kim Janey, which would establish the “equitable regulation of the cannabis industry” within Boston.

The proposed ordinance, similar to guidelines set by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, would lay out the criteria applicants must meet to be part of the “Boston Equity Program.” In order to qualify, at least 51 percent of the applicant team must meet a handful of requirements, such as being disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition for the past 5-10 years, or having a conviction for the possession, sale or trafficking of marijuana, or being a person who is of black, African-American, Hispanic or Latino descent.

The proposed ordinance would ensure economic empowerment businesses outnumber other marijuana businesses in Boston on a 2-to-1 scale. It would also create a cannabis advisory board, made up of city officials, community business representatives, a person formerly incarcerated for marijuana charges, as well as public health and safety officials. Tax revenues would fund the advisory board, Janey said.

“This industry is here,” Janey said during her opening remarks on Tuesday. “If the people in communities that have been locked up during prohibition of cannabis are now locked out from meaningful participation in this industry, then we will have missed this important opportunity to correct injustices of the past.”