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Is Massachusetts Living Up To What It Said It Would Do For Cannabis Equity?

Is Massachusetts Living Up To What It Said It Would Do For Cannabis Equity?

“In Boston, 52% of The Approved Licenses for Recreational Dispensaries Went to Applicants Who Were Not White. It Was 100% in Cambridge. When All Types of Licenses Are Taken Into Account, the Number Is 35% for The Whole State”

Dispensaries that sell cannabis for recreational use are finally getting licensed in big cities like Boston and Cambridge, and some stores are even opening. It took more than five years to get to this point, though. Most of that time was spent setting up a fair application process so that the state could keep its promise that communities that were hurt the most by cannabis being illegal would be the first to get money from it being legal.

Of the 58 licenses to sell recreational cannabis in Boston, 30 (or 52% of the total) have gone to equity applicants in some way. Depending on how the term is used in a certain area, an equity applicant can be a person of color, a woman, a veteran, a person with a disability, or a member of the LGBTQ community.

Is Massachusetts Living Up To What It Said It Would Do For Cannabis Equity?

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All 12 licenses that have been given out so far in Cambridge are in the hands of equity candidates. At least two of the shops have started selling marijuana.

About a year ago, Leah Samura and her two business partners opened Yamba Market in Central Square. Cambridge’s efforts to help applicants of color get ahead helped all three Black entrepreneurs. They plan to open a second store called Yamba Boutique soon in Harvard Square. Their success has not come without hard work.

“One thing that often happens to me is that men attack me while I’m doing it,” Samura said. “It’s probably one of the hardest things to deal with, especially when Black men attack a Black woman trying to work in the same industry as them.”

ALSO READ: The First Marijuana Dispensary for Adults In Quincy Has Set A Date For Opening

In Massachusetts, only 6% of pot shops are owned by women.

Entrepreneurs of color who get into the cannabis business, no matter what gender they are, often talk about how hard it is to get start-up money. Tito Jackson, who used to be on the city council and now owns a cannabis business called Apex Noire in downtown Boston, says that it costs between $1.2 million and $1.5 million to open a dispensary for adults-use in Boston. It has made it so that the people who have this unique economic opportunity can’t pay the price to take advantage of it.

Steve Hoffman, a former member of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Board who helped set equity goals for the industry in the state, still works to help entrepreneurs of color get ahead financially. He says that funding is an important part of the plan for equity in ownership and that this part will be in place soon.

“We worked very hard with the Legislature for four years to get them to pass a bill that would fund equity applicants,” Hoffman said. The bill was passed in July of last year. “And I wish I had found a way to do that faster.”

Once this law goes into effect, 15 cents of every dollar of tax money from recreational cannabis will go to an equity fund. In Massachusetts, the extra money from the recreational tax is more than $200 million per year. Those who want to start a business in the cannabis industry will be able to use that fund to get the money they need to get started. Still to be decided is whether the money will be given as a grant, a loan, or in some other way.

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Mohit Sharma

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