Only two of 184 marijuana business licenses in Massachusetts are owned by people in the state’s social equity programs, which include minorities, people with drug records, and those from areas with high numbers of pot arrests. One is a black man from Boston; the other, a white woman whose husband had a drug charge.
“The window is closing every day — they need to stop what they’re doing and rewrite the script,” said Shannon Jones, 34, an entrepreneur from Marlborough in the state’s economic empowerment program for cannabis, who hopes to open a pot cafe. “Our ancestors, as black and brown people, would laugh at the fact that we put trust and faith in the government to want to help us.”
While the state has taken steps to reach the voters’ social justice goals, cities and towns wield enormous power in determining who gets to profit from the booming industry, which has raked in $260 million since shops opened in November. Local governments determine who receives a “host community agreement,” required as a first step for a marijuana license.
No one tracks how many applicants for local approvals are minorities, but only 4.6 percent of the businesses applying for state pot licenses registered as minority-owned.
As a black entrepreneur with a marijuana record from Brockton, Ian Woods, 28, thought he was precisely the type of person Massachusetts wanted to help open a cannabis store after the state legalized recreational use of the drug nearly three years ago, with a social justice mandate.
Brockton is one of the cities most ravaged by pot arrests. Yet Woods said he visited City Hall for months seeking approval, and he said he never received a call back. The mayor, meanwhile, approved 10 wealthier companies largely owned by white men, citing their prospects for viability as a key factor.