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Massachusetts Considers Cannabis Industry Reforms

By Therin Miller | August 5, 2022

According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a bill package that included a crackdown on local fees charged to cannabis businesses. This calls for a 15% cut of cannabis excise taxes to social equity applicants and enterprises, retooling the expungement process for old cannabis convictions, and approving a pilot program for cannabis cafés. The bill goes through Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) hands, who has shown support for the bill's contents.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Daz (D), a cannabis measure co-sponsor, stated that the bill "would equalize the playing field" in the state's cannabis business.

Shanel Lindsay, a cannabis attorney and co-founder of the advocacy organization Equitable Opportunities Now, stated that, the law is historic.

"Legislators made history today with this critical — and long-overdue — grant and loan fund," she told the Globe. "This law is essential in addressing the ills of prohibition and over-policing. It will pave the way for families of color to develop employment in their communities and pass down generational wealth."

The bill's prohibition on so-called municipal "impact" payments comes more than a year after former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted of extorting cannabis firms and cheating investors out of more than $200,000. Correia extorted cannabis firms in return for non-opposition letters, which are needed by state law and sometimes compel the company seeking to operate a business to pay an "impact" fee.

According to a survey published in June by the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, Massachusetts communities have received more than $53 million in "impact" fees from cannabis firms since the start of adult-use sales in 2018.

Only 47 of the 88 towns indicated they had collected fees as part of their local agreements. Cannabis firms responded to the researchers' public records request, implying that the $53.3 million sum is less than the actual amount received.

Fall River received the most fees from cannabis operators, $5.34 million. Still, it did not disclose how that money was spent on researchers.

Baker called the proposal "vital" in an interview with WGBH last month, saying he hoped it would make it to his desk.


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