Massachusetts Legislature Passes Legislation to Foster Greater Equity in Cannabis Industry

The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry, that encourages and facilitates participation in the cannabis industry from communities disproportionally harmed by marijuana criminalization by creating a Social Equity Trust Fund. The bill also strengthens the host community agreement process and clarifies procedures for permitting social consumption sites.

“The passage of this legislation will help to ensure that those who have been historically impacted by marijuana prohibition can find new opportunity in the emerging industry,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “This legislation will help to support folks who have faced generations of inequality secure the needed capital to launch a cannabis business. I want to thank Chair Donahue and the conferees, my colleagues in the House, as well as Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate for the hard work required to get this done.”

“I am thrilled we were able to reach a deal on this bill, which will take meaningful steps toward ensuring communities who have historically been harmed by marijuana criminalization can access resources to enter this industry,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I’d like to thank Chair Rodrigues as well as Senators Comerford and Fattman and all of the Senators who have worked so hard on this issue, Speaker Mariano and our partners in the House, and all of the conferees for advancing this important issue forward.”

“This legislation’s inclusion of a social equity trust fund will allow social equity entrepreneurs equal access to the cannabis industry. Further, this legislation will update the Commonwealth’s expungement processes to allow for individuals with past cannabis related charges a path forward in expunging their criminal records,” said Representative Daniel M. Donahue (D-Worcester), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy. “This bill has been considered by the legislature for the past four years; we are proud to have come to an agreement to move the cannabis industry forward in Massachusetts and to have removed barriers for those most disadvantaged by the war on drugs in Massachusetts.”

“The conference report we passed today builds upon the goals that we have always had for the cannabis industry here in the Commonwealth—protecting consumers, supporting small business, and promoting social equity,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I want to thank Senate President Spilka for her leadership, along with Senator Chang-Diaz, Senator Cyr, Senator Jehlen and others for advocating to make sure Massachusetts remains a cannabis industry leader. Ultimately, this conference report passed by the Senate promotes the continued growth of a competitive and equitable industry here in our state.”

Establishes the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund

This legislation creates a trust fund to make grants and loans to social equity program participants and economic empowerment priority applicants, which will give entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement better access to grants and loans to get their businesses off the ground.

Fifteen per cent of the revenue collected from the sale of marijuana and marijuana products must be transferred to the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, which will be administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), in consultation with a newly created Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board.

“This legislation will create a more equitable cannabis industry in the Commonwealth and I am pleased to see it reach the Governor’s desk,” stated Senator Joanne M. Comerford (D-Northampton), “I am deeply grateful for the hard work put into this bill by the conferees, led by Senator Rodrigues and Representative Donahue. They approached this issue with expertise and compassion and the resulting bill will bring more diversity and equity to this industry.”

Clarifies the host community agreements process

The legislation clarifies the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) role in reviewing and approving host community agreements (HCA), which are executed between marijuana businesses and their host municipalities. It authorizes the Commission to prioritize social equity program businesses and economic empowerment priority applicants for expedited review.

The legislation also clarifies the scope of HCAs and adds new criteria, such as:

  • No host community agreement can include a community impact fee that is beyond the business’s eighth year of operation.
  • The community impact fee must be reasonably related to the actual costs required to operate a cannabis business in a community.
  • The CCC must review and approve each host community agreement as part of the license application and renewal process.
  • All host communities must establish procedures and policies to encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

“I am proud this body is taking steps to reform the HCA process and bringing forward better options for the growing cannabis industry in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Mathew J. Muratore (R-Plymouth).

“I am proud to have served on the conference committee on the cannabis and social equity bill, which expands access to the cannabis industry,” said Senator Ryan C. Fattman (R-Sutton). “America is the land of opportunity, and it is crucial that it is available to all. Our founding principles are based on these ideals, and we must be persistent in our pursuit of equity of opportunity in our economy today.”

Clarifies the local social consumption approval process

The social consumption policy, which would allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where sold, is authorized by existing law. However, this legislation amends it to ensure proper procedures are taken regarding local initiative petitions. Under this legislation, as an alternative to local initiative petitions, a city or town may also allow for social consumption sites through the passage of a by-law or ordinance.

Expedites the expungement process

For individuals seeking to expunge a record for previous offenses that are now decriminalized, this legislation requires the court to order the expungement of the record within 30 days of the request and expunge records for possession of marijuana or distribution of marijuana based on the now legal amount.

Having been passed by the Senate and the House, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry now goes to the Governor for his signature.