Applicants are eligible for the Social Equity Program (SEP) if they demonstrate they meet at least one of the criteria below.
- Income that does not exceed 400% of Area Median Income and residency in a Disproportionately Impacted Area, as defined by the Commission, for at least five of the past ten years;
- Residency in Massachusetts for at least the past 12 months and a conviction or continuance without a finding for an offense under M.G.L. c. 94C or an equivalent conviction in Other Jurisdictions;
- Residency in Massachusetts for at least the past 12 months and proof that the SEP applicant was either married to or the child of an individual convicted or continuance without a finding for a M.G.L. c. 94C offense or an equivalent conviction in Other Jurisdictions;
- Any individual listed as an owner on the original certification of a Certified Economic Empowerment Priority Applicant who satisfies one or more the following criteria:
- Lived for five of the preceding ten years in a Disproportionately Impacted Area, as determined by the Commission;
- Experience in one or more previous positions where the primary population served were disproportionately impacted, or where primary responsibilities included economic education, resource provision or empowerment to disproportionately impacted individuals or communities;
- Black, African American, Hispanic or Latino descent; or
- Other significant articulable demonstration of past experience in or business practices that promote economic empowerment in a Disproportionately Impacted Area.
M.G.L. c. 94C Offenses: Controlled Substances Act
Residents of Massachusetts who have a conviction or continuance without a finding for an offense under M.G.L. c. 94C or an equivalent conviction in Other Jurisdictions; or who are either married to or the child of an individual convicted or continuance without a finding for a M.G.L. c. 94C offense or an equivalent conviction in Other Jurisdictions are eligible for the Social Equity Program.
How and When to Apply
To apply for the Social Equity Program, interested applicants must first create an account and log into the Commission’s online Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP). General tutorials to help navigate MassCIP are available here.
The application review period for the Social Equity Program (SEP) is typically two to three months. When an individual submits an application through MassCIP, Commission staff review it to ensure the information meets the minimum requirements to join the program and includes the necessary supporting documents. The applicant may be notified that more detail is needed.
Learn About: Suitability
Suitability: License Applicants and Licensees
The Commission conducts background checks on all people and businesses listed on a license application to ensure they meet certain suitability standards. These standards can be found under adult-use regulations 935 CMR 500.800 and 500.801 (Table A), or for license applicants for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center licenses under 935 CMR 501.800 and 501.801 (Table A). For license applicants, one general restriction to be aware of is that no person or entity must have been convicted of a felony (excluding any convictions involving marijuana).
Please note: individuals whose SEP applications are approved in the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry Portal (MassCIP) can take a pre-screening survey, answer background check questions, and get an automatic response about potential suitability issues that may arise during the licensing process based on information they provide . The survey is available in MassCIP and is called “Social Equity Program Suitability Pre-Screening”.
Suitability: Proposed and Registered Agents
For individuals who want to participate and work in the industry at Marijuana Establishments and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers as Registered Agents, rather than own a license, the Commission has different suitability standards. In most cases, if you have marijuana convictions in your past—unless it involved distribution of controlled substances to a minor— it will not prevent you from working at a marijuana business. However, for best advice on your personal situation, consult a licensed attorney.
You can find those standards in the following places depending on what type of facility you would like to work at:
- 935 CMR 500.802 Adult-Use Regulations
- Table B (Retail, Delivery, Social Consumption, and Transportation Agents)
- Table C (Product Manufacturing Agents)
- Table D (Cultivation Agents)
- 935 CMR 500.803 Adult-Use Regulations
- Table E (Laboratory Agents)
- 935 CMR 501.802 Medical-Use Regulations
- Table B (Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Agents)
Following a 2022 change in state law (see c. 180 of the Acts of 2022, An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry), past criminal offenses and convictions will not prevent individuals from working as agents in the adult- or medical-use industry with limited exceptions. Certain criminal offenses and convictions will still prevent individuals from being Laboratory Agents, while distribution of a controlled substance, including marijuana, to a minor will prevent any individual from being any type of agent.
Suitability issues that arise during the licensing or registration processes will be reviewed and addressed specifically with the person who is subject to the issue. If an applicant has received notice of an adverse suitability recommendation, they may request an informal hearing before the agency’s Suitability Review Committee.
- This is an informal process where you can talk to a panel of Commission staff members and provide more information or context around the event that raised the suitability issue.
- You can explain why you should be found suitable if a potential issue is identified. In some cases, mitigating factors may be used to rebut the potential suitability issue. Mitigating factors could include: time since the offense, number of offenses, sentence imposed, age at the time of offense, and whether the offense was committed in association with dependence on drugs or alcohol from which the person has since recovered.
- After hearing from you, the Committee makes a recommendation to the Executive Director who then makes a determination about your suitability.
Ultimately, if you learn that your background prevents you from owning a license, or working in a plant-touching role at a Marijuana Establishment or Medical Marijuana Treatment Center, there are plenty of other avenues available to reap the benefits of this industry. The Social Equity Program is designed to provide different pathways to participating in the legal cannabis industry, including as an outside contractor through the ancillary track.
Learn About: Pre-certification
Pre-certification is a Commission benefit exclusively available to SEP Participants and Economic Empowerment Applicants who wish to demonstrate to a prospective host city or town their propensity to open a delivery or social consumption business.
The Pre-certification application requires license applicants to submit limited information to the Commission upfront, which then demonstrates their ability to successfully operate a Marijuana Establishment. The applicant will have to disclose information pertaining to proposed ownership and control, background information, and operating policies and procedures commonly required for all license types. The application fee will be required unless waived under the regulations. Background check and fingerprinting is not required at this stage of the application.
More information is available via the Commission’s Guidance on Licensure (starting on page 39).
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