Boston Globe | The state Cannabis Control Commission seeks to right the wrongs of the war on drugs (Op-ed)
By Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion
If you are a Massachusetts resident who has been harmed by the war on drugs, either personally, through a family member’s experience, or in your community, now is the time to pay attention to the cannabis industry and make your voice heard.
The state Cannabis Control Commission is evaluating which Massachusetts cities and towns were hit hardest by previous marijuana prohibition and enforcement, and which residents, by law, should be eligible to receive the benefits of the now-legal, $2.5 billion industry.
Our state was the first in the nation to enact a mandate to promote equity in the regulated marketplace. As a result, our agency offers benefits to certain populations, including those who have resided in 29 specific municipalities designated as “disproportionately impacted areas.” Of those 29, municipalities with populations over 100,000 have been subdivided into census tracts.
Individuals who have lived in a disproportionately impacted area may be eligible to participate in the commission’s Social Equity Program, for example. The program provides training and technical assistance to prospective marijuana business owners, employees, and ancillary companies that provide services to licensees, and other licensing benefits. Plus, each license applicant who comes before the commission must submit a plan to positively impact disproportionately harmed people, detailing how it will invest resources in communities on the DIA list and other populations.
Several studies, largely relying on arrest data, poverty rates, and racial demographics, inform the commission’s ongoing review of disproportionately impacted areas. In 2017, an independent researcher published “The Impact of Drug and Marijuana Arrests on Local Communities in Massachusetts.” In 2021, the commission and the UMass Donahue Institute released, “Identifying Disproportionately Impacted Areas by Cannabis Prohibition in Massachusetts.” The data and methodology used to determine the most harmed communities are available for public review.
I’ve expressed concerns about lingering gaps. For one thing, crime does not always occur where offenders live. In other words, Boston census tracts in downtown and Back Bay may experience a high concentration of property crimes due to increased daytime population, the presence of stores, and more opportunities for theft. However, that does not mean residents of those areas have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition or should be eligible for the benefits of legalization. It is critical that we recognize important indicators of disproportionate impact in offenders’ own communities, and that their neighbors be considered for these benefits.
Read the rest of Commissioner Concepcion’s op-ed here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/02/16/opinion/state-cannabis-control-commission-seeks-right-wrongs-war-drugs/
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