On July 31, 2022, Massachusetts passed legislation (S. 3096) that seeks to promote greater diversity among those participating in the state’s licensed cannabis industry. This bill will lay the groundwork for establishing and enhancing social equity measures for cannabis business owners in the state.
- A “social equity business” in Massachusetts will be a marijuana establishment with not less than 51 percent majority ownership of individuals who are eligible for the social equity program or whose ownership qualifies it as an economic empowerment priority applicant as defined by the commission’s regulations.
- The cannabis control commission will prioritize social equity program businesses and economic empowerment applicants and any other class of applicants the commission deems eligible for expedited review during an evaluation of applications and inspections.
- Procedures and policies for municipalities to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry during negotiations of host community agreements with social equity program businesses and economic empowerment priority applicants will be established.
- There shall be a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to encourage the full participation in the regulated marijuana industry of entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition.
Social Equity Program Eligibility
Applicants are eligible for the social equity program if they demonstrate that they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1. If their income does not exceed 400% of Area Median Income and Residency in an Area of Disproportionate Impact for at least five of the past ten years.
2. Residency in Massachusetts for at least the past 12 months and a conviction or continuance without a finding for an offense.
3. Residency in Massachusetts for at least the past 12 months and proof that the SEP applicant has a family member with an unfound conviction.
4. Any individual listed as an owner on the original certification of an Economic Empowerment Priority Applicant who satisfies one or more of the following criteria:
- Lived for five of the preceding ten years in an Area of Disproportionate Impact
- Experience in one or more previous positions where the primary population served was disproportionately impacted
- Black, African American, Hispanic or Latino descent
Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants
In accordance with state law, the Cannabis Control Commission will provide priority licensing review to Certified Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants who demonstrate at least three of the following six criteria:
- The majority of ownership belongs to people who have lived in Areas of Disproportionate Impact for five of the last 10 years.
- The majority of owners have held one or more previous positions where the primary population served were disproportionately impacted
- At least 51% of current employees/subcontractors reside in Areas of Disproportionate Impact and will increase to 75% by the first day of business.
- At least 51% of employees or subcontractors have drug-related offenses but are otherwise legally employable in a cannabis-related enterprise.
- A majority of the ownership is made up of individuals of Black, African American, Hispanic, or Latino descent.
- Owners can demonstrate significant past experience in business practices that promote economic empowerment in Areas of Disproportionate Impact.