CCC program eyes boost for those harmed by old pot laws

  • A cannabis worker trims a cannabis flower at Loving Kindness Farms in Gardena, Calif. Thursday, April 4, 2019.  AP PHOTO/Richard Vogel

State House News Service
Published: 4/24/2019 3:02:24 PM

BOSTON — Now that it has mostly settled into a rhythm of approving new marijuana businesses and is preparing for a rewrite of the industry’s rules, the Cannabis Control Commission is set to dive deep into policy issues at a Thursday meeting that could spill into Friday.

In addition to four final license votes, eight provisional license votes and consideration of three ownership change requests, the CCC plans to discuss its social equity program, which will provide technical and financial assistance to prospective business owners from communities disproportionately harmed by past drug laws.

The first-in-the-nation program is meant to serve as “a means to address and further prevent the inequitable status quo by first recognizing and then accommodating those who experienced disparities in treatment,” CCC community outreach director, Shekia Scott, told commissioners last year when the panel was shaping the program.

Wednesday on Twitter, Commissioner Shaleen Title said Thursday’s CCC meeting “is going to be a doozy” featuring “[m]ajor policy decisions.”

The program has not yet launched, but the commission is accepting applications from eligible participants. Vendors interested in providing training and technical assistance to program participants have until May 3 to respond to the commission’s solicitation.

As of April 4, the CCC said it had received 194 completed applications and that another 192 applications were in progress.

The program is a central component to the marijuana law rewritten by the Legislature in 2017. The law mandates that the CCC adopt “procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

The program will include four tracks: the entrepreneur track will help those seeking licensure or ownership in the cannabis industry navigate the application process and will provide training on industry challenges. The re-entry and entry-level track is geared specifically towards providing skills training for people recently released from prison and those with no prior experience in the cannabis world. The core track will offer management and executive workforce development training for people interested in managerial or executive careers in the marijuana industry. The ancillary track is designed to help connect people with trade and professional skills (think carpenters, lawyers, drivers and accountants) with marijuana businesses.

The CCC said about 74 percent of the applications it’s received are for the entrepreneur track, about 12 percent are for the re-entry and entry-level track, almost 10 percent for the ancillary track and nearly 5 percent for the core track.

Benefits of participation in the program will include ongoing technical assistance, fee waivers and initial exclusive access to certain types of licenses, according to the CCC.

To be eligible for the program, an applicant or licensee must meet one of the following criteria: 1) have resided in an area identified as the CCC as being disproportionately impacted for at least five of the last 10 years and have an income that does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level; 2) have a past drug conviction and have lived in Massachusetts for at least the last 12 months; or 3) be married to or be the child of a person with a drug conviction and have lived in Massachusetts for at least the last 12 months.

The CCC laid out a work plan for the social equity program at its April 4 meeting, including finding a research partner, identifying parts of the state in need of greater outreach and studying the models of similar programs.

At the Thursday meeting, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. in State House hearing room A-2, the CCC will also consider four recommendations for final licenses – for Garden Remedies to open a retail store in Marlborough, for Rise Holdings to open a retail store in Amherst, and for CommCan, Inc., to cultivate marijuana and produce marijuana-infused products in Medway.

Regulators will also be asked to approve provisional licenses for eight facilities — two medical dispensaries, three recreational retailers, two cultivators and one product manufacturer. The commission is also slated to consider three change of ownership applications, from Alternative Therapies Group, Inc., Caregiver-Patient Connection and East Coast Organics, LLC. By law, any proposed change in ownership of a marijuana licensee is subject to approval by the CCC.

The CCC has also posted an agenda for a meeting on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Department of Transportation building. The CCC noted that the Friday meeting is an “overflow agenda from April 25 if needed.”

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