The wide-ranging bill, S. 2801, is meant to address some of the industry’s biggest woes, as identified by cannabis activists, regulators, businesses and municipalities in the state, according to the news outlet.
The legislation, which lawmakers say is an economic development and racial justice bill, would, in part, implement tighter restrictions and increased oversight on the host community agreements that cannabis businesses are required to enter into with the municipalities they operate in, WBUR reported.
The bill would also create a pathway for municipalities to authorize on-site cannabis consumption establishments that have already been authorized by the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) regulations, according to the news outlet.
S. 2801 would also create a new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund that would provide grants and loans to participants in the CCC’s social equity program or economic empowerment priority applicants, WBUR reported.
"By clarifying the requirements of the host community agreements, making financial investments to increase social equity and allowing for the full implementation of the cannabis industry through permitting social consumption authorization, I am confident that this legislation aids in the continued growth of a competitive and equitable commercial marijuana industry here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodrigues as he introduced the bill on the Senate floor, according to WBUR.
The legislation has cleared the Senate’s Cannabis Policy Committee, and the committee’s chair, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, said the bill aims to fix “long-standing problems with long-identified solutions,” the news outlet reported.
"If you talk to advocates, to policy experts, to the Cannabis Control Commission, you will find near-universal agreement,” Chang-Diaz said. “They will tell you ... that the costs of entry into the industry are too high and that there is a severe lack of access to capital in this industry. It typically requires one to one and a half million dollars in liquidity to open a new cannabis retail shop or three to five million for a manufacturing facility. So, when you need that kind of cash on hand in order to get into the business, in order to get your foot in the door, it's no surprise that despite our best intentions, the industry has remained predominantly white and predominantly in already wealthy hands.”
S. 2801 now heads to the Massachusetts House for possible consideration.