Grow, Gift, Repair


BROCKTON – Brockton Mayor Moises Rodrigues said his office is opening the door for minority marijuana businesses.

During the summer, after he was appointed mayor following the death of former mayor Bill Carpenter, Rodrigues’ office announced that it was accepting additional requests for host community agreements for “economic empowerment” applicants and those who have qualified for the state’s marijuana social equity programs, which are designed to help minorities and communities that were disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of pot in the past. Under Carpenter, the city issued 13 host community agreements for would-be recreational marijuana businesses, including 10 host community agreements for retail pot shops.

Rodrigues said City Hall is providing five more proposed marijuana businesses with host community community agreements, which are required by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission to qualify for a license needed to sell pot legally in Massachusetts. Candidates are now being notified, the Brockton mayor said.

On Thursday, Rodrigues was not able to immediately provide The Enterprise with a list of recipients or copies of the new host community agreements, which the mayor said are still being finalized.

Ultimately, Rodrigues said it will be up to the Cannabis Control Commission to determine if any of the applicants qualify for a license to sell marijuana in Massachusetts, before City Council acts as the local permitting authority.

“Mind you these aren’t licenses. These are just host agreements,” Rodrigues said. “It’s up to state and City Council who gets a license.”

However, Rodrigues said economic empowerment applicants and others who who qualify for the social equity programs should at least be given a shot, which they were not in the past. Rodrigues said previously there was no proper notification process in place, or any formal public outreach, when the city of Brockton began accepting proposals for host community agreements in 2018, thereby leaving many potential minority applicants out of the loop.

“We want to open it up and afford Brocktonians an opportunity to apply,” Rodrigues said. “We felt that there were some social and equity empowerment individuals who were never given an opportunity to have or to acquire a host agreement.”

Throughout the state, and at the Cannabis Control Commission, a conservation has taken place about a lack of equity in the recreational marijuana licensing process. Thus far, only two of more than 180 marijuana licenses in Massachusetts were issued to applicants from the state’s social equity programs. There’s also a public discussion about corruption when it comes to the issuance of lucrative host community agreements, and whether a mayor alone should be the issuing authority, especially in light of the second arrest of Fall River Jasiel Correia, accused of extorting marijuana vendors in exchange for signing their host community agreements.

“It’s kind of nuts, if you put all that power in the hands of one person,” said Rodrigues, while adding that he is not judging the guilt or innocence of Correia.

One of those economic empowerment applicants who is seeking to open a state-approved marijuana business is 28-year-old Vanessa Jean-Baptiste, a Bridgewater State University graduate who studied criminal justice. Jean-Baptiste said she recently received a letter confirming that the city planned to issue her a host community agreement for a marijuana store in Brockton. Once she gets that signed agreement in hand, Jean-Baptiste said she’s ready to finalize her application and file it with the Cannabis Control Commission.

For those wondering how she will be able to pull it off, at such a young age, without much money of her own to invest, Jean-Baptiste said she has acquired financing and has a store location lined up at 93 Pleasant St. Jean-Baptiste said she is receiving a crucial sponsorship from Theory Wellness, which was one of the first companies to open a recreational marijuana business in Massachusetts at its Great Barrington location, while also operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Chicopee and Bridgewater.

Jean-Baptiste is also seeking to open another legal pot shop in Uphams Corner in Boston. One retail license so far was issued in Boston, going to another economic empowerment applicant in late July.

Jean-Baptiste said Theory Wellness is providing $250,000 in financing toward the building and acquiring an inventory for her proposed Brockton store. Jean-Baptiste said she was awarded the scholarship under the Theory Wellness Social Equity Program, an initiative established by that company to help economic empowerment applicants to get off the ground.

“The Theory Wellness sponsorship us gives us a great leg-up,” Jean-Baptiste said. “They know the process, in and out. The owners are really helping us with any questions we have. I feel very confident in what’s going on for the future. … We’re waiting to take it to next step, put an application in to the state, get a provisional license, build out and do the open.”

The 28-year-old thanked Rodrigues for re-opening the process and giving her a shot. Jean-Baptiste said she hopes to open a marijuana store to empower and inspire other African Americans to reap the economic benefits of legalization in Massachusetts, after decades of criminalization disproportionately impacted people of color.