By Commissioners Bruce Stebbins and Kimberly Roy | November 10, 2021
This Veterans Day, ahead of the three-year anniversary of legal adult-use cannabis sales in Massachusetts, it seems timely to highlight the growing opportunities that the regulated industry offers servicemen and women across our state. In fact, the Act To Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana, enacted by the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker in 2017, includes specific mandates to ensure veterans can fully participate in this marketplace.
Rightfully so: after all that our veterans have sacrificed for our freedom, they deserve special access to business ownership and good jobs. The Commonwealth’s cannabis industry offers that and more: since the first Marijuana Retailers opened on the East Coast in Massachusetts on November 20, 2018, gross sales surpassed $2 billion this past September, and already eclipsed $1 billion this calendar year alone. Every new company that comes online brings diverse job opportunities, including roles within licensed facilities, and work for ancillary contractors that can provide services to their businesses.
Each new Marijuana Establishment is mandated to submit to the Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) a Diversity Plan to support Massachusetts’ equity goals. Every public meeting, Commissioners hold licensees responsible to ensure those include intentional efforts to hire women, minorities, residents with disabilities, LGBTQ citizens, and, of course, veterans, in accordance with our Commission guidance.
As a result, hundreds of veterans have registered as Marijuana Establishment Agents in Massachusetts so far. And, once they are hired, they receive mandatory training that ensures licensees run safely and effectively, but also opens the door for career advancement in an up-and-coming industry taking root in 18 states nationwide.
Veterans also are finding success as entrepreneurs and cannabis business owners. Currently twenty-five of the Commission’s license applicants are owned by veterans, and accordingly jump the licensing queue for review and approval under the Commission’s regulations. Five veteran-owned businesses have already opened for business, including the first Microbusiness to offer home delivery services, plus an innovative Cultivator who created a new QR code that helps customers readily access product information.
Meanwhile, cannabis businesses in Massachusetts work with the state’s Supplier Diversity Office to identify and contact veterans who have become certified in any number of construction trades or related businesses. Using a veteran-owned firm to support a licensee’s plumbing or electric, or to build out a brick-and-mortar facility, yields positive results for both the contractor and the cannabis business.
Beyond diverse hiring practices, every licensee, whether they are owned by a veteran or not, must submit to the Commission a Positive Impact Plan to support communities that were disproportionately impacted by previous marijuana prohibition and enforcement. Plans range from mentorship programs to contributions toward veterans organizations that help residents of Commission-designated areas of disproportionate impact. In fact, when the descendants of World War II General George Patton entered the Massachusetts cannabis industry, they donated to a local veterans group in their host community of Southbridge as part of their plan.
Veterans have plenty to celebrate about this new cannabis industry, but much more work remains to be done. For example, even though medical marijuana has been found to help veterans alleviate certain health conditions, additional research and stronger partnerships with the medical community is needed to ensure more can access these benefits.
The servicemen and women who have kept our country safe, then return home to Massachusetts, deserve opportunities to thrive in new careers that support their families, and receive the care they need. The regulated cannabis industry was designed to offer them that network of support, and we encourage our peers in government, industry, and the public to continue prioritizing veterans’ success.
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