The event focused on equity in the emerging industry, which CCC Commissioner Shaleen Title addressed in depth during her keynote speech.
“We can do so much more than just legalize,” Title said. “Legalization is an incredible opportunity to lift up some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised people against whom prohibition was targeted. Now we need to actually see that through and make sure it’s not just lip service.”
She spoke about a report put out Monday by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in which Massachusetts was praised for having the most far-reaching equity provisions of any legal cannabis market so far.
“This is a movement that is sustained by people who saw the hypocrisy and the injustice in the status quo, and this is a movement built by young people who refuse to wait for permission from their elders,” Title said. “And now that legalization is spreading across the world, the movement is needed more than ever.”
Speaking to a crowded room, she instructed those in attendance to do three things: to stay updated on the new industry, to make sure that industry is held accountable, and to sign up for the CCC’s social equity program.
After the keynote, the event transitioned into smaller breakout sessions across the gallery where attendees were encouraged to network and troubleshoot the problems they’ve been experiencing. Then, the conversation was refocused for an in-depth discussion of the social equity program.
The program was created by the CCC to help encourage involvement in the new industry from those in the communities that faced a disproportionate negative impact from marijuana laws.
To partake in the program, applicants must meet criteria involving either their income and the disproportionate impact on their community, or a prior drug conviction involving themselves or an immediate family member.
Once a person’s application is approved, the social equity program then helps with fee waivers, technical assistance and initial exclusive access to certain licenses. This help is extended to everyone from people seeking entry-level jobs to those looking to license and own dispensaries.
“We want to stray away from putting a program out that says ‘OK, well this is what we have and you have to just mold to it,’” said Shekia Scott, the director of community outreach for the CCC. “We are going to mold to you and make this as seamless [as we can], and less cumbersome for the applicant as opposed to a one-size-fits-all program that usually doesn’t fit.”