Grow, Gift, Repair

Loan fund for equity?

In 2019, the state’s marijuana industry reported $420 million in sales. But not a single economic empowerment business is open for business yet. Pure Oasis, a dispensary planning to open in Dorchester, has received its final license.

To help level the playing field, supporting marginalized groups and small businesses, a social equity loan fund could be created, the letter suggested.

Hoffman and Collins wrote the fund could be similar to the Illinois Social Equity Cannabis Business Development Fund or the City of Oakland Equity Loan Program.

“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,” the letter reads.

That would also help to direct marijuana tax revenue to fund programming for restorative justice and services for economically-disadvantaged people in areas that saw high arrest rates during the war on drugs, according to the letter.

“The fund should also be structured to allow for private donations,” the letter reads. “Currently, several cannabis businesses in Massachusetts are keeping funds in escrow in order to donate them for this purpose, and others have expressed a willingness to contribute to a fund with these objectives.”

Codifying the commission’s social equity program in statute and creating dedicated funding could help to ensure there is consistent and regular access to training, technical assistance, mentorship, and other benefits, according to the letter.

The suggestions are based on research by the CCC, observations over the last two and a half years and the requirements of Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, Hoffman and Collins wrote.