"Social Equity" Program To Help Those Impacted By Drug War In Massachusetts

By Victoria Kim 06/29/18

The programs aims to help people who have been disproportionately affected by the drug war enter the cannabis industry with ease.

Female hand holding a big cannabis marijuana plant

The state of Massachusetts is rolling out a new “social equity” program to help certain individuals navigate the legal cannabis industry.

Cannabis for adult (or “recreational”) use is a booming industry. It is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, while more, including New Jersey and New York, may follow.

Equity programs already exist in California, but the one in Massachusetts would be the first in the nation to be applied statewide.

The idea is to provide assistance to people who have been disproportionately affected by the government’s long-waged “war on drugs.”

To be eligible for the Massachusetts program, a person must either have a past drug conviction or be the spouse or child of a person with a drug conviction, who has lived in the state for the last year; or they must have lived in a community deemed an “area of disproportionate impact” for at least five years and earn below 400% of the federal poverty level.

Eligible applicants will receive mentoring, technical assistance, and skills training to help them enter the cannabis industry with ease.

“The social equity program is designed to create sustainable pathways into the adult use cannabis industry for both individuals and businesses,” said Shekia Scott, the director of community outreach for the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), which was tasked with helping those disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana get in on the growing industry.

The program’s goal is to create a comprehensive program tailored to each applicant at any skill level—whether they want to start a business or find an entry level job.

“We want applicants to specify their needs so we can meet them where they are,” said Scott, who introduced the social equity program at a Tuesday (June 26) meeting of the CCC. “We’re not making a one-size-fits-all program, that we know usually doesn’t fit all.”

While the Massachusetts program does not specifically target certain people of color, inevitably many black and Latino residents will be eligible to participate.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black Americans are arrested for cannabis possession at more than 3.7 times the rate of whites, despite the fact that marijuana is used at comparable rates by both groups.

According to Marijuana Business Daily, owners and founders within the cannabis industry are 81% white, while just 4.3% are black and 5.7% are Latino.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr