Matt Allen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and a member of the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board, said the social equity support mandated by the law is yet to materialize.
Without that technical support, few applications will come from these targeted areas, while those applicants that manage to get approval will have difficulty competing in the industry.
“These businesses will be competing against well-monied interests, so technical assistance, legal expertise, advice on how to raise capital, compliance expertise are all areas of need that are crucial to creating equity in the industry,” he said.
“The commission has listened to some concerns, but the support is still mired in bureaucracy. When will this support come, what form will it take? We are hearing silence.”
Mr. Allen said the state can help disadvantaged communities in three ways, providing technical assistance, moving forward with approving less expensive delivery and social use licenses (provisions of the law the state has delayed implementing) and providing guidance to local officials on how to promote equity.
Shaleen Title, one of five commissioners on the cannabis control board, said she understands the concerns being raised by Mr. Allen and others. However, the nascent status of the industry, staffing challenges, and a desire to “get it right” have contributed to the slow rollout of technical assistance, she said.
She said the commission is in the process of hiring a community outreach director, and that she is hopeful the equity program will be rolled out by early summer.
“There is going to be a lot of people who qualify for the equity program, and we have to get it right. We have to make sure that we are doing it in a responsible way and that we are accountable.”