Massachusetts House Passes Bill to Promote Diversity in State’s Cannabis Industry
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Massachusetts House Passes Bill to Promote Diversity in State’s Cannabis Industry

The Senate approved similar legislation last month.

May 19, 2022

Massachusetts lawmakers seem poised to tackle some of the cannabis industry’s biggest woes this legislative session.

The House voted 153-2 May 18 to pass a bill that would promote greater diversity in the market, increase oversight on the host community agreements that cannabis businesses must enter into with the state’s municipalities, and establish a regulatory framework for on-site cannabis consumption lounges, according to a GBH News report.

“Since the passage of legal recreational cannabis, the creation and growth of the legal industry in the commonwealth has been, in most cases, a success, leading to hundreds of new businesses, thousands of new jobs and the creation of new revenue streams for the commonwealth and its municipalities through this new and innovative industry,” Rep. Dan Donahue, D-Worcester, the House chair of the Cannabis Policy Committee and the bill’s sponsor, said, according to the news outlet. “It is, however, time to revisit the initial legislation to provide clarity on the intent of legislation and to work to ensure we continue to remove barriers to entry into this unique industry for those communities who are so disproportionately harmed and impacted by the prohibition of marijuana.”

The Senate approved similar legislation last month.

While Massachusetts mandated equity and inclusion as part of its legal cannabis framework and launched programs to support entrepreneurs from communities most impacted by the war on drugs, only 20 of the state’s 346 cannabis businesses are tied to participants in the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) social equity program or are economic empowerment entrepreneurs, GBH News reported.

Donahue’s legislation would allocate 20% of the state’s Marijuana Regulation Fund, which houses the revenue generated from Massachusetts’ cannabis excise tax, application and licensing fees, and industry penalties, into a new Social Equity Trust Fund, according to the news outlet.

The new fund would offer grants and loans to help support those most disproportionately impacted by prohibition in getting their businesses up and running.

The bill would also more specifically define what can and cannot be included in host community agreements between cannabis businesses and their local jurisdictions, GBH News reported.

The legislation would codify a municipality’s right to waive a host community agreement, according to the news outlet, and would also require the CCC to “review and approve each host community agreement as part of a completed marijuana establishment or medical marijuana treatment center license application and at each license renewal.”

The bill would bar CCC officials from approving final license applications until the host community agreement is approved, GBH News reported.

Donahue's legislation also aims to jumpstart cannabis consumption lounges in the state.

The CCC approved rules for the lounges more than two years ago, according to GBH News, but regulators have said that the pilot program it created for up to 12 of the state’s municipalities cannot launch without a change in state law.

Donahue’s legislation includes what he calls “technical fixes” that allow municipalities to vote on cannabis consumption lounges by local referendum or through a vote of the municipal government, GBH News reported.