Grow, Gift, Repair

What “equity” looks like in Massachusetts Part 2

Yet, looking to preserve the state’s anticipated revenues from the legal industry – state officials have projected taking in $63 million in taxes by June 30, but had received only $5.9 million as of March 1 – Democratic Sen. Michael Moore, and Republican Rep. Hannah Kane are proposing a bill that would aggressively police the illicit marijuana market. The bill would fine unlicensed businesses based on the estimated amount they would have paid in taxes.

“In order for the legal recreational market to thrive, the illicit market must be confronted,” Mr. Moore, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said in introducing the bill earlier this week.

“While traditional enforcement may be efficient in many cases, we must be open to new ideas and strategies as they emerge. These benefits (local economic development and tax revenue boost) are the reason so many cities and towns have embraced the opportunity to host dispensaries, or processing or cultivation facilities, but the unlicensed marijuana operators threaten stability and benefits the legal market provides.”

The bill would direct money raised from the crackdown to police training, a strong incentive to induce aggressive policing, no doubt. The money would also fund substance abuse prevention and intervention programs.

But here is the kicker: The bill also said the funds raised from enhanced enforcement would be used to assist communities disproportionately affected by drug laws to get the necessary training and assistance to break into the legal industry, which, it seems to me, is akin to saying they are going to overpolice communities eligible for social equity assistance to help their residents get into the legal marijuana trade.

The cannabis commission as a whole has not taken a position on the bill, but member Britte McBride is recommending that a task force the bill would create to direct the enhance policing of the underground marijuana trade also collect data on the race of those targeted by the crackdown.

In addition, Ms. Title is also recommending that the task force – which includes the head of the state police, the commissioner of the Department of Revenue, the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and representatives of the Cannabis Control Commission, Department of Public Health, attorney general’s office and the treasurer’s office – be expanded to include representatives of groups such as the ACLU and NAACP.

“While I understand this task force is focused on enforcement rather than policy, it is worth considering … representatives with the expertise to identify and speak to civil rights and criminal justice considerations of such efforts,” Ms. Title said.

I know she means well, as do Mr. Moore and Ms. Kane, but I just can’t see this marijuana social equity initiative of the state ending any other way than another trust-betrayed, hope-to-despair situation.

But like Charlie Brown, we will keep on believing.