“This would begin to address the lack of capital that is most widely cited as a barrier to entry preventing businesses with fewer resources from entering the market,” Hoffman and Collins wrote in their letter. “This would be an efficient and effective way to satisfy (state law), which directs marijuana tax revenue to fund programming for restorative justice and services for economically disadvantaged people in communities disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration for marijuana offenses.”
The pair also suggested that private donations be allowed, saying that several cannabis businesses in the state are keeping funds in escrow to donate them for this explicit purpose.
The fund is one of three suggestions the cannabis regulators made to the Beacon Hill committee. The pair also proposed that lawmakers codify the state’s social equity program in statute. The program, available to people from areas disproportionately harmed by the U.S. war on drugs, offers training, technical assistance, and mentorship. Collins and Hoffman suggested the state should establish a dedicated source of funding to sustain it.
The pair also asked that lawmakers require municipalities open to marijuana shops to prioritize applicants who were harmed by the federal prohibition on marijuana.
Currently, marijuana applicants must sign a contract with a municipality before their application can be deemed complete with state regulators, who are seeking to increase the number of applicants from the communities harmed by the U.S. war on drugs.
“This has created an inconsistency and a disparity in the types of applicants who are able to navigate and ultimately succeed in our application process. The inconsistency has impeded our ability to fulfill our requirements, and thus the Commonwealth’s ability to meet its commitments,” Collins and Hoffman wrote in their letter.
The commission has sought to address the predominately white and male demographics of the fledgling industry. The commission has waived fees for economic empowerment and social equity applicants. Additionally, certain license types — including marijuana transportation and social consumption — have also been given exclusive priority for economic empowerment and social equity applicants. A pre-certification process has been created with the intent of helping certain types of licenses get through the local approval process.
These programs are on top of a brief enrollment period for people harmed by the war on drugs. Known as the economic empowerment program, that has offered applicants the ability to skip to the front of the line in the approval process. The state also created a social equity program to offer training and mentorship to a similar population.
But some groups have decried the process as being slow and cumbersome. One applicant interrupted two commission meetings, citing the slow timeline, and over 80 applicants turned up at a hearing dedicated to the concern in late January.
Despite those efforts, barriers exist, including funding, finding a location, local approvals, and application issues. As of the commission’s last meeting on Feb. 6, 82% of licenses that had submitted all required packets did not identify as minority or woman-owned. Additionally, 74% of the 7,831 agents working in the industry were white.