Yesterday was the end of the training for the first in the nation cannabis social equity training program in Massachusetts. Governor Bakers halt on adult-use is reversing the gains made for those who graduate today to have access in Massachusetts.
April 23, 2020
COVID-19 is a devastating public health emergency, and no time should be spared to save lives right now. COVID-19 is not only having an immense clinical impact, it also having devastating economic consequences for millions including the workforce and small businesses.
The ongoing and robust public health efforts and partnerships to address and control COVID-19 by Governor Baker should be applauded, including launching several innovative partnerships to collectively drive change.
However, it needs to be reminded that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should also be very proud of the first in the nation economic empowerment and social equity program for adult-use cannabis. This is a program developed over the last three years and aims to right the wrongs of the drug war, a war historically targeting communities of color including African-Americans and Latinos, by ensuring low-income communities have priority access to the adult-use industry.
Yesterday the trainees completed their final courses for the MA first in the national social equity training program participants, designed to create a pathway for restorative justice in the new legal cannabis industry. But given Governor Baker's decision, many of these hopeful entrepreneurs trained and setting up for the adult-use industry may not be able to succeed without relief.
Bakers halt on adult-use is reversing the gains made for cannabis social and restorative justice in Massachusetts.
Many adult-use cannabis companies that are in the licensure process are from 29 cities and towns identified as disproportionately impacted by war on drugs in Massachusetts. Now we see another war raged on these same low-income communities in Massachusetts - COVID-19. We are seeing alarming rates of disproportionate access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and increased deaths among African-American and Latinos. Not only is COVID-19 causing serious health and clinical concerns, it is also having a devastating economic impact on these communities.
Denying companies from these communities access to the adult-use industry is further causing inequities and reversing years of work of the Cannabis Control Commission to ensure Massachusetts is a leader righting the wrongs of the drug war. Deeming adult-use cannabis "non-essential" has severely hurt these small businesses from low-income communities in Massachusetts who have worked hard to have equal access. Without any traditional loans for the cannabis industry they are left unable to fulfill their small business visions or join the collective fight with other small businesses and industries against COVID-19 that Massachusetts is leading.
Why is Governor Baker ignoring the first in the nation social equity program when California amid the COVID epidemic took a different approach and this week funded a $30 Million for their social equity fund?
While medical cannabis dispensaries can operate as essential in Massachusetts, many of these are not in the neighborhoods identified as disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. Now we are seeing these communities are at increased risk for COVID due to historical health inequities among communities of color. By not allowing these communities who have fought for access in the adult-use industry to give back to their communities is not addressing the public health and economic needs of all in the Commonwealth.
Why did Governor Baker do this when other legal cannabis states have not taken such strict and swift action? The Governors rationale is based on limiting out of state buyers.
While this is a valid concern, the reality is that it is within his authority to restrict sales to MA residents only. Adult-use cannabis companies can follow the exact same guidelines that medical dispensaries are adhering to, including curb-side pick-up, delivery and heightened sanitization procedures in place with the Cannabis Control Commission now. The State should absolutely limit all sales to only Massachusetts residents and adult-use dispensaries can operate under the same strict guidelines as the medical dispensaries.
Blog Post by Dr. Marion McNabb, CEO of C3RN