Boston City Council Addresses Lack of Minority Applications

The city of Boston, Massachusetts is proposing changes to ensure that potential minority cannabis business applicants have a chance to reap the benefits of an emerging cannabis industry in the state.

Last December, the city council heard hours of testimony and shared statistics about the lack of diversity in the applicants for the cannabis industry currently vying for a license. “I only have one statistic to share today, and it is a nauseating statistic,” Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title had said at their Dec. 4, 2018 meeting. “As of our last meeting we had issued 76 provisional licenses to businesses, and not one of those businesses has identified as a minority-owned business.”

In response to the lack of diversity, City Councilor Kim Janey filed an ordinance last week that would create a board overseeing the city’s cannabis businesses and ensuring representation from minorities and those communities adversely affected by the “War on Drugs.”

As currently proposed, the measure would require a two-year moratorium on approving licenses to business that are not minority-owned, by people from families or communities disproportionately affected by drug convictions, or someone whose annual household income is below 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

It would also create transparency with an online registry of cannabis business and investors and have the city negotiate Host Community agreements with developing businesses.

Out of 50 current applicants for cannabis business licenses and the 25 who have been approved so far, only one has held an economic empowerment designation, given to a business owned in or that employs people that lived in communities where drug-related arrests were high.

“This is important, because for generations the war on drugs targeted and criminalized poor communities of color,” Janey said. “This industry will generate enormous wealth. We need to make sure that communities that have been locked up are not locked out of this economic opportunity.”

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