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Massachusetts Cannabis Regulators Consider Business Loans to Boost Diversity

Massachusetts cannabis regulators are considering a fix to the lack of diversity in the state’s cannabis market and discussed several strategies, including the possibility of interest-free loans.

Full story after the jump.

Members of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission discussed methods of increasing inclusivity and diversity in the state’s cannabis industry, including the possibility of giving interest-free loans to minorities and women operating in cannabis space, the Boston Business Journal reports.

On Thursday, regulators met to discuss a course correction for the trajectory of the state’s cannabis market, which so far has been primarily operated by white men. Massachusetts’ cannabis laws specifically order regulators to encourage participation by minority demographics that were disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.

Though stipulated by the law, regulators have struggled to make diversity a reality in the cannabis business space. Out of 112 licenses issued so far, only two business owners identify as a minority. Nine businesses are women-owned and three are LGBT owned.

“My current concern is the equity program was meant to guide the participants through a process that at its foundation should have been accessible. We built in low fees, made measures to make it accessible. But if there are systemic barriers… it’s like trying to help people cross a bridge that hasn’t been built yet. We need to continue to be thoughtful.” –Shaleen Title, Massachusetts Cannabis Commissioner, via Boston Business Journal

In addition to interest-free loans, regulators discussed changing how licenses are awarded — potentially prioritizing applicants who would provide more diversity to the market — and other regulatory changes to foster further participation.

“It is not too late,” said Title, who challenged assertions that big business already controls the cannabis market in Massachusetts. She indicated that the market was still in the very early stages. “There are going to be 50 stores in Boston alone — and there are zero stores now.”

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