Massachusetts Cannabis Commissioner ‘Embarrassed’ by Industry Inequities

Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title says she is starting to feel “embarrassed” by inequities in the state’s cannabis industry.

Full story after the jump.

Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title said in a Boston Public Radio interview that she is starting to become “embarrassed” by the state’s cannabis industry inequities along with a plan by the House to use cannabis-derived revenues for police training.

During the interview, Title said the House plan “struck a chord with a lot of people” and she had “a visceral reaction … to see an equity bill funding police before equity has been funded in many ways.

“The chairman said earlier he was proud other states are following in our lead,” she said, referring to comments by MCC Chairman Steve Hoffman. “And I was proud, but at this point, four years later, I’m started to becoming embarrassed, to be honest.”

Just three of the 70 economic empowerment applicants approved by the commission have opened for business.

Title also took aim at the so-called community host agreements – deals between cannabis companies and their host cities – as “a way to extract money” from businesses.

“The local approval process, particularly the host community agreement, was meant to be an agreement between businesses and the municipality they’re located in to discuss things like hour of operation, signage, the typical things a city would control. But what it turned into was this perversion where many – not all – but many towns and cities are using the host community agreement as a way to extract money, donations, sometimes from businesses.” – Title to WGBH

Hoffman has previously criticized the agreements as a barrier to entry for potential social equity applicants who might not have the ability to pay the 3 percent required under the law, and often cannot pay more than that. Hoffman told MassLive that the host agreements do “give a disproportionate advantage to bigger companies that can afford to throw in a fire truck on top of their 3 percent.”

Those host agreements came under fire initially after the arrest of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who allegedly used the host agreement to extort tens-of-thousands of dollars from cannabis companies. Last year, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling convened a grand jury focused on the potential bribery of government officials by Massachusetts cannabis companies and subpoenaed the municipalities of Eastham, Great Barrington, Leicester, Newton, Northampton, and Uxbridge as part of his investigation.

In an opinion article published in the Boston Globe last week, Title and Hoffman urged lawmakers to pass a Senate bill that would establish a loan fund for equity applicants, along with other reforms to make the industry fairer.

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