Cannabis Control Commission Applauds Legislature’s Passage of S.3096, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry
WORCESTER—After several years of advocacy by Cannabis Control Commission (Commission) members past and present, the agency is celebrating the Legislature’s passage of S.3096, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry, and the many enhancements it will bring to the regulated marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
The new law will help to define the Commission’s authority to regulate, review, and enforce host community agreements, and clarifies what is allowed under the contracts between municipalities and licensees. Cities and towns will also be required to prioritize equity applicants in their local licensing process, in line with the state mandate to ensure full participation in the industry by communities that have been disproportionately impacted by previous marijuana prohibition and enforcement. S.3096 also includes a technical amendment that will allow municipalities to incorporate Social Consumption Marijuana Establishments into their communities for the first time since the Commission incorporated the license type into its regulations in 2019.
In the midst of the Commission delivering training and technical assistance to its third cohort of Social Equity Program Participants, S.3096 codifies Massachusetts’ first-in-the-nation statewide programming into law. To date, nearly 900 individuals who have been harmed by the War on the Drugs—either directly, through a family member, or as part of their community—have been accepted into the Commission’s program. Additionally, the legislation establishes a state-administered trust fund capitalized at 15% of the annual Marijuana Regulation Fund revenue generated by licensees, giving equity applicants newfound access to capital to pursue success in the legal marketplace and lowering one of the primary barriers to entry into the cannabis industry identified by many prospective licensees since voters passed adult-use legalization in November 2016. Additionally, licensees will now be allowed to satisfy, in part, their Commission-required Positive Impact Plans with a donation to the fund.
Other notable changes include the removal of certain suitability restrictions for Marijuana Establishment agents, except for those who would be employed by an Independent Testing Laboratory, as well as language allowing licensees to deduct from their state tax obligations an amount equal to what the licensee would be allowed to deduct from its federal taxes if not for the federal prohibition of marijuana.
“Since my appointment I’ve focused on engaging with diverse groups of participants in the industry and am proud and grateful to have collaborated with advocates, our Legislators, and my fellow Commissioners to deliver a Massachusetts social equity fund,” said Commissioner Nurys Camargo. “This law—codified in the context of many years of racial inequality — now stands to serve the very participants who are most in need of the financial resources to open their doors, kickstart their business, and maintain equity and control of their companies.”
“Today the Legislature demonstrated that Massachusetts remains steadfast in our commitment to equity and inclusion in cannabis,” said Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion. “As the lead sponsor of the Commission’s Legislative and Executive Branch Outreach Strategy, I want to especially extend my gratitude to Speaker Mariano, President Spilka, Chair Donahue, Chair Chang-Diaz, and the members of the conference committee for working with the Commission to remedy some of the most pervasive issues impacting the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry.”
“I want to thank the Legislature and its leadership for their collaboration with our agency, the community, and the industry in passing this legislation that advances the social justice, equity, and inclusion mandate of the adult-use marijuana laws, especially with the creation of the social equity trust fund and the expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses,” said Chair Sarah G. Kim. “We look forward to working with stakeholders as we implement its changes, especially those pertaining to social consumption sites and host community agreements.”
“I am grateful to the Legislature for listening to and responding to the needs of the cannabis industry as it continues to evolve in the Commonwealth; along with licensees surpassing $3 billion in sales since November 2018, the Commission has safely, securely, and equitably regulated the legal marketplace, but there is always room to do more,” said Commissioner Kimberly Roy. “I look forward to participating in this process and this law providing more access and opportunity to future equity applicants through much-needed capital, providing more transparency and oversight over host community agreements, and removing other barriers to entry.”
“I greatly appreciate the Legislature’s leadership to address critical issues for the emerging cannabis industry,” said Commissioner Bruce Stebbins. “This law grants more oversight and clarity around host community agreements, paves the way for added economic development in local communities through Social Consumption Marijuana Establishments, and creates a social equity fund that will hopefully allow equity applicants to move their business proposals over the finish line.”
“I am thrilled that many of the reforms effectuated by this legislation will support the Commission’s efforts to fulfill Massachusetts’ trailblazing equity mandate, including financing for social equity participants, greater resources and advising for applicants still facing the highest hurdles to entering the industry, and requirements that equitable policies and programs be implemented at the municipal level,” said Executive Director Shawn Collins. “We thank the Legislature for their commitment to a truly equitable industry and look forward to working with the Governor’s office and other partners as we implement this new law.”
The bill now goes to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature.
For more information about the Commission, visit MassCannabisControl.com, contact the Commission by phone (774-415-0200) or email (Commission@CCCMass.Com), or follow the agency on Facebook and Twitter.
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