Grow, Gift, Repair

Boston Councilor Lydia Edwards on City’s New Cannabis Rules and Regulations

On July 22, the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB) adopted new rules and regulations. They state that the BCB’s role is to grant licenses to applicants “for cannabis establishments within the City of Boston while ensuring Licenses are granted in such a manner so as to ensure equity, quality, and community safety.

“Specifically, the BCB is the siting authority for such establishments evaluating the proposed time, place, and manner in which these establishments are approved, open, and operate.”

Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary spoke with Lydia Edwards, councilor of Boston’s District 1, about the rules and regulations, and she shared several points of contention.

The BCB noted in its new rules and regulations that it “does not have the authority or ability to negotiate host community agreements.” However, Edwards said host community agreements (HCAs) should be part of the applications that come before the BCB and should be approved by the board. Those agreements are part of the local approval process that the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission mandates in its licensing scheme.

“Negotiations are currently happening “in the dark,” she said. “So, to what end? To whose benefit? The whole point and the spirit of the law and the reform that Councilor [Kim] Janey was trying to put in, was that a public process with people representing the community would be the ones negotiating and finalizing and getting the HCAs done for everyone to see. And instead, they decided to interpret the regulations to allow for a song and dance.”

The BCB also didn’t address in its rules and regulations the topic of potential disparities between people who are granted brick-and-mortar and delivery licenses. The city previously established a 1:1 ratio for granting social equity and other licenses. However, due to the state setting aside delivery licenses to social equity applicants for the next two years, Edwards wrote in public comment prior to the adoption of the new rules, this could “create an industry with a disproportionate number of dispensaries being operated by non-equity license holders.”

Edwards proposed the BCB issuance of separate license classes for delivery businesses than brick-and-mortar dispensaries and a separate fee structure. Another idea she proposed in public comment is for the BCB to “create an additional license class for cultivation and manufacturing businesses.”

These changes don’t appear in the new rules and regulations, Edwards told CBT and CD. “The whole point of this damn statute is equity and race analysis,” she said. “I am telling you, we are set up so that there are going to be a bunch of white owners, and they’re not incentivized now to get any people of color to own with them if they can just go get Black folks to deliver for them.”

In addition, Edwards said the city needs to provide license applicants with a distinct timeline, which is something that isn’t in the new rules and regulations. “That, I think, is by far the biggest frustration most people have, because they are still paying rent, they put up time, they put up money, they quit their jobs, they’ve done whatever pursuing this—and like, any other business, they would have a predictability.

“Their lawyers or their consultants would be able to say, ‘This is how long it takes to get this part, this part, this part, then you get your decision, and if it’s for you, you go this way; if it’s against you, you go this way.’”

Edwards also weighed in on Massachusetts lawmakers’ efforts to pass a police reform bill. She said she thinks the main issue that needs addressed relates to qualified immunity, a process that protects police from lawsuits and has become a part of the ongoing debate surrounding racism and police brutality.

When asked what the cannabis industry should know about these discussions in Boston and Massachusetts more broadly, Edwards said: “I believe that this industry needs to take a long, hard look at who’s involved and who’s running it, and also needs to be holding them accountable. You cannot just walk in the middle of the most pained history on war on drugs on certain communities and then say, ‘I’m here to make money, and I’ve got nothing to do with that.’ And that’s what I’m seeing too much of.”