Financial Difficulties Are Blocking Diversity in Massachusetts’ Cannabis Industry

Without a set of federal laws to regulate this new industry, states are on their own to sort out racial diversity for themselves.

Unlike other states where individual municipalities are left on their own to create social equity programs, Bay State lawmakers ensured that considerations for diversity were included in the state’s initial cannabis regulations. The state has also created a social equity program to offer professional and technical services to qualifying applicants. All canna-businesses in the state are also required to submit plans showing how they will work to promote racial and gender equality within their own workplaces. Concerned about the effectiveness of the program, the CCC sent an email survey to all of these applicants in an attempt to discover what was blocking them from completing the application process. Last Friday, the commission released a report explaining the results of the survey. Another major challenge that these applicants face is a regulation that requires all applicants to receive prior approval from their local government. Unlike wealthier business owners, it is much harder for lower-income applicants to just uproot and move to another city that welcomes legal weed.

The survey does not necessarily represent a complete picture of all of the applicants as the CCC only received responses from 63 out of the 326. In light of this, CCC Chairman Steve Hoffman said it was “Premature” to predict whether the state will succeed in its goal of fostering diversity. “We will monitor how this process works. We will tweak whatever we need to tweak to make it work. If we need to go back to the Legislature and ask for changes in the legislation, we will do so.”

The commission will continue to work on collecting information from surveys and focus groups so that they can adapt their regulations to offer more help to applicants who are struggling to succeed.

These issues highlight the fact that the creation of social equity programs may not be enough on its own to foster a diverse cannabis industry, and officials from other canna-legal states would be wise to keep an eye on whether the Bay State is able to address the conflict at hand.

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