Massachusetts Dispensary Association Sues Over Social Equity Rules

The Massachusetts Commonwealth Dispensary Association is suing state regulators over a plan to only issue cannabis delivery licenses to social equity applicants for the first three years. Advocates, meanwhile, have lauded the provisions.

Full story after the jump.

Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA) is suing the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) over its plan to only issue delivery licenses to social equity applicants for the first three years, Boston Business Journal reports. The lawsuit contends that the rule violates state law and that the commission didn’t have the authority to enact the regulation in November as it did not have a full complement of members at the time.

Meanwhile, the social equity provisions are widely supported by advocates including the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council (MRCC), which lobbies for restorative justice for communities disproportionately impacted by the War On Drugs.

The board in November approved regulations creating two different cannabis delivery license types – one allowing delivery companies to purchase and warehouse wholesale product and another allowing couriers to partner with recreational cannabis dispensaries to deliver to consumers. The CDA, however, argues that cannabis law defines a cannabis retailer as “an entity licensed to purchase and deliver marijuana and marijuana products from marijuana establishments and to deliver, sell or otherwise transfer marijuana and marijuana products to marijuana establishments and to consumers.” Which, according to their read, should allow current licensees the right to delivery licenses.

“Simply, the CCC overstepped its authority and disregarded state law, radically upending the established rules that hundreds of small businesses and their host communities operated in accordance with since 2016. … Today’s action goes beyond a disagreement about cannabis delivery – the CDA is dedicated to ensuring that the Commonwealth’s established laws are upheld and appropriately observed through fair procedures and adequate due process.” – CDA statement, via Boston Business Journal

Saskia VannJames, an MRCC Board Member, said the lawsuit is disappointing but not surprising.

“The CDA has been able to own this industry and dominate as big players since the founding of the legal cannabis industry in Massachusetts 5 years ago,” VannJames wrote in an email to Ganjapreneur. “The medical dispensaries in Massachusetts were the first to open their doors in the cannabis industry in our state. And just about all of the … dispensaries before recreational rolled out were owned by white cisgender men, some of whom then formed the CDA.”

“Make no mistake it has never been Massachusetts’s priority to right the wrongs from a racially motivated War on Drugs. The priority of Governor Baker, who appoints the Cannabis Control Commission along with the Attorney General and Treasurer, has been to prioritize a slow rollout – never restorative justice.” – Saskia VannJames, MRCC Board Member, in an email

VannJames also said that while the suit could ultimately overturn the provisions, a similar case in Cambridge, Massachusetts unfolded favorably for social justice. In that case, CDA member Revolutionary Clinics had unsuccessfully sued local officials three times for reserving the right to retail adult-use cannabis for social equity applicants.

As of January 14, just 53 of Massachusetts’s 986 completed licenses were social equity applicants, according to the report. The CDA’s lawsuit is filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

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