(BOSTON – 08/01/2022) The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry, that encourages and facilitates participation in the cannabis industry from communities disproportionally harmed by marijuana criminalization by creating a Social Equity Trust Fund. The bill also strengthens the host community agreement process and clarifies procedures for permitting social consumption sites.

“With the advent of a Cannabis industry we discovered a social equity concern as constituents had difficulty getting their businesses up and running. Thanks to the President Spilka, Speaker Mariano and my colleagues we have been able to pass legislation to level the playing field.” said Senator Michael D. Brady (D-Brockton)

Establishes the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund

This legislation creates a trust fund to make grants and loans to social equity program participants and economic empowerment priority applicants, which will give entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement better access to grants and loans to get their businesses off the ground.

Fifteen per cent of the revenue collected from the sale of marijuana and marijuana products must be transferred to the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, which will be administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), in consultation with a newly created Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board.

Clarifies the host community agreements process

The legislation clarifies the Cannabis Control Commission’s (CCC) role in reviewing and approving host community agreements (HCA), which are executed between marijuana businesses and their host municipalities. It authorizes the Commission to prioritize social equity program businesses and economic empowerment priority applicants for expedited review.

The legislation also clarifies the scope of HCAs and adds new criteria, such as:

  • No host community agreement can include a community impact fee that is beyond the business’s eighth year of operation.
  • The community impact fee must be reasonably related to the actual costs required to operate a cannabis business in a community.
  • The CCC must review and approve each host community agreement as part of the license application and renewal process.
  • All host communities must establish procedures and policies to encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

Clarifies the local social consumption approval process

The social consumption policy, which would allow the sale of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises where sold, is authorized by existing law. However, this legislation amends it to ensure proper procedures are taken regarding local initiative petitions. Under this legislation, as an alternative to local initiative petitions, a city or town may also allow for social consumption sites through the passage of a by-law or ordinance.

Expedites the expungement process

For individuals seeking to expunge a record for previous offenses that are now decriminalized, this legislation requires the court to order the expungement of the record within 30 days of the request and expunge records for possession of marijuana or distribution of marijuana based on the now legal amount.

Having been passed by the Senate and the House, An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry now goes to the Governor for his signature.