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Mass. Drums Up 'Pretty Poor' Attempt To Address Disparity In Marijuana Business

The sales counter at the retail marijuana shop Cultivate in Leicester, Massachusetts.
Jesse Costa
The sales counter at the retail marijuana shop Cultivate in Leicester, Massachusetts.

In our look back at news of the week, Massachusetts marijuana regulators have announced plans to give those most impacted by the so-called war on drugs the first licenses to start pot delivery businesses.

The state's Cannabis Control Commission regulates the pot industry, which so far has been dominated by white recreational marijuana shop owners. The commission aims to help people living in a community with high levels of past drug arrests, or who themselves experienced an arrest. 

Commissioner Shaleen Title told NEPR earlier this week, "We have a very clear requirement to make sure that this industry is diverse, and in particular, that communities disproportionately harmed by prohibition are included — and thus far, we haven't been able to fulfill that."

The state's white ownership of pot businesses was highlighted by reporting from The Boston Globe, which found that "of the 15 recreational stores open as of early April in Massachusetts, not a single one had an owner who is a [racial] minority."

"They didn't account for the fact that banks aren't loaning money for these kinds of businesses," said panelist Kristin Palpini of the state's efforts. "And if you don't have the money, then you can't get into it. So even though they have an equity application that's supposed to catapult you to the front, it's not working out for folks, because they don't have the initial startup costs. And that's going to be the same with this upcoming plan, I think."

Panelist Mike Dobbs said there are 15 recreational marijuana licenses available in the city of Springfield, and about two dozen applicants so far. But only one of them, he said, is a local company headed by a woman of color, despite the city's diversity.

"There is a great deal of disparity, and it's going to be very evident," Dobbs said. "I think that saying to them, 'If you're a minority business owner, you can apply to be a delivery service' — I think that's pretty poor, actually."

Also, a report by Palpini in The Berkshire Eagle says that while recycling is a downward trend across the country, Berkshire County is bucking the trend, along with the rest of the state.

Lastly, President Trump called in to Boston Herald Radio this week and went directly after Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. That was after Warren called for Attorney General William Barr to resign. She may have enjoyed the attention, but the super divisive presidential campaign season is now truly upon us. 


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