in , , , , , , ,

Massachusetts marijuana: Could fines and donations support the state’s equity program? Cannabis regulators sa – MassLive.com

With three Massachusetts marijuana companies facing fines of $200,000 or more for violations alongside uncertainty about the state budget amid the coronavirus pandemic, Shaleen Title of the Cannabis Control Commission asked her colleagues on the commission to write a letter to the legislature requesting that the agency be able to use fines and donations to support equity initiatives.

The request from Title was not part of the agenda for the commission’s monthly meeting, which was held virtually on Thursday, and instead came up during the agenda item reserved for “New business that the chairman did not anticipate at time of posting.” Title had sent a memo with her request to Chairman Steven Hoffman, Commissioners Jennifer Flanagan and Britte McBride and Executive Director Shawn Collins on July 7, after meeting agenda was posted online.

With the commission’s social equity program, the first of its kind in the industry, maintaining the same level of funding at $300,000 per year since 2017, Title wanted to see the agency request the legislature allow fines collected by the commission and donations, like from a licensee’s positive impact plan, to support equity initiatives.

A way to allow for that to happen was introduced in a bill by state Sen. Jason Lewis, which was introduced in January 2019 and sent to study earlier this year, Title explained in her memo and during the Thursday meeting. The commission currently lacks a way to accept donations made as a part of positive impact plans and, in some cases, funds are sitting unused in escrow, Title wrote.

Earlier in the meeting, the commissioners had discussed fines for three companies as well as budgeting.

“I think it is incumbent upon us, particularly at this moment when leaders at all levels, including us, are being very thoughtful about how we can be more equitable in our decision making and policy making, that we should point out this technical challenge to the legislators who charged our agency with meeting these goals and specifically included that the commission should be able to accept funds and use them because if we don’t tell them they’re never going to know,” Title said to fellow commissioners when making her case Thursday.

But other commissioners felt there was not enough time to prepare to have a conversation on the topic and expressed frustration at the timing of the memo.

“Asking this agency and asking us commissioners to support a bill that was filed back in January of 2019, had a hearing in October of 2019, was sent to study on Feb. 20 and was sent to a study order with 45 other bills on Feb. 24, to me is a little late in the game,” said Flanagan, who added that she did not think a bill that had gone to study five months ago would suddenly come to the forefront.

The legislature historically finishes up its session by July 31 and it is unprecedented to go past that date, said Flanagan, who previously represented the Worcester and Middlesex District of the Massachusetts State Senate and the 4th Worcester District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Title rebutted that she did bring up the topic last year.

”I don’t believe that receiving a memo three days before a licensing meeting with 70-some-odd provisionals on the agenda is really in the spirit of working together to try and get things done,” Flanagan said.

McBride echoed Flanagan’s thoughts on the timing of the memo.

“I’m pretty frustrated that an issue that’s as important as social equity and as important to get right and being watched as closely as social equity is, is being presented in this way,” she said.

McBride said she did not think the commission was prepared to have a conversation on the issue and said she wants to have more feedback and data concerning the social equity program to talk further on the topic.

“I agree with Commissioner McBride’s comments,” said Hoffman. “This is an important issue. This is a policy issue. I truly believe that to the extent we want to make a case for additional funding for the social equity program it has to be supported by here’s explicitly what we’ll do with it, here’s explicitly what benefits we, and more importantly, our constituents will receive from that.”

Hoffman recommended that the commissioners not vote on the issue Thursday, but Title moved forward with a motion, saying that with the legislative session ending it was “now or never” on the decision. Title voted in favor of the request, Flanagan voted against it, and both Hoffman and McBride abstained.

Hoffman told fellow commissioners he is confident he can get the topic on next month’s meeting agenda.

Title said during the meeting that she did not necessarily think a vote against the request meant a commissioner was against equity efforts.

The commission’s social equity program offers free technical assistance and training. The economic empowerment program was created to give prioritized review and licensing to people disproportionately and communities impacted by high rates of incarceration and arrest for marijuana offenses.

Last month, as a regulatory round began, commissioners discussed expanding the social equity program to include other categories of people, like veterans, as well as to economic empowerment applicants. While many economic empowerment applicants are already participating in the social equity program, this change would streamline the process and give those applicants access to resources, tools and mentorship

Sieh “Chief” Samura, an economic empowerment applicant who is involved with J.P. Coburn Network Association, a group of economic empowerment and social equity applicants that have come together as business allies, said he feels the commission has failed equity applicants.

“We’ve seen a lot more activity coming out of the Cannabis Control Commission over the last two weeks regarding equity than we’ve seen in the last two years,” Samura said. “The narratives that they choose to insist on don’t really serve equity or the market very well, I think … bandaids long after the wound has festered.”

Related Content:

Written by homegrownreview

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading…

0

Ontario ending cannabis delivery and curbside pickup – NOW Magazine

Top executive leaves Maine’s biggest marijuana company – Portland Press Herald – Press Herald