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Those Impacted By War On Drugs Get First Chance To Deliver Marijuana Under Mass. Plan

The 2016 ballot question that legalized adult marijuana use in Massachusetts envisioned a business model where marijuana could be used in licensed cafes and lounges. Almost seven years later, Cannabis state regulators are on a fact finding mission to develop policies based on how other states are building businesses.
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Massachusetts marijuana regulators have given an initial green light to providing those impacted by the war on drugs a new opportunity. They'd get first crack at opening up recreational marijuana delivery services.

The plan would help people living in a community with high levels of past drug arrests or who had an arrest themselves.

Those factors would help them initially get the exclusive right to deliver recreational marijuana.

Shaleen Title sits on the Cannabis Control Commission, and supports the concept.

"We have a very clear requirement to make sure this industry is diverse, and communities disproportionately harmed by prohibition are included — and thus far, we haven't been able to fulfill that," she said.

The commission is talking about revisiting the exclusivity after two years.

But David Torrisi, who leads a trade association of pot companies, said his group would rather see a firm end date.

Otherwise he said, "that's exclusivity in perpetuity, and members of my association would have a problem with that."

Bishop Talbert Swan, the head of the Springfield NAACP, sounds underwhelmed by the plan, though he called the idea commendable.

"I don't think it scratches the surface of making right the many decades of policing of black and Latino neighborhoods where cannabis was aggressively policed," he said.

Swan said the real money is in the marijuana stores and dispensaries. And if the state really wanted to make an impact, he said, it would ensure a certain percentage of licenses go to minorities in areas disenfranchised by the war on drugs.

The Cannabis Control Commission will now draft proposed regulations.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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