Boston Lawmaker Pushing for Racial Diversity in Cannabis Industry Regulations

A Boston city councilor is urging the Office of the State Treasurer to consider racial equality when making potential changes to the state’s adult-use cannabis law, according to a Metro report. Councilor Ayanna Pressley is sponsoring the discussion for tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

“As the state treasurer’s office is actively working towards implementation, and the legislature is considering changes to the law, it is critical that racial equity is at the forefront of this work and thoughtfully incorporated into all policies and regulations,” she said in the report.

The Treasurer’s Office is tasked with establishing a Cannabis Control Commission, which will devise the rules and regulations for the recreational market. Under the law, the commission must develop “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 provision was written by racial diversity activists, including Shanel Lindsay, an attorney and owner of Ardent Cannabis, a medical cannabis device company. She said the section was included after activists realized that legalization measures in Colorado did not include such provisions and “there was almost no minority participation” in the state’s cannabis industry.

“The harm in what they’re doing, in my opinion, is taking the racism that existed under prohibition and transferring it to a brand new legal and economic industry,” she said. “Even people (of color) who were eligible to access the industry really weren’t, because of a lack of capital or how difficult it is for us to become professionals generally.”

A similar provision is included in Maryland’s medical cannabis law, which has led to lawsuits and threats by the Legislative Black Caucus to introduce legislation that would start the licensing process over, alleging that the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission failed to follow the law’s diversity guidelines. The MMCC has since hired a diversity consultant to address those claims.

According to Pressley, less than one percent of licensed dispensaries and retail stores are owned by people of color in the 25 states that have legalized some form of cannabis use.

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