A diverse and inclusive cannabis industry is budding in Massachusetts.
In late December, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission approved draft regulations for the adult use of recreational marijuana. This development, which had been in progress since August, will impact the future of the marijuana industry and how Massachusetts residents will access legal cannabis.
On Wednesday, the Cannabis Society hosted “All Good Things,” a discussion to unpack the new CCC draft regulations at CIC Boston. Jay Youmans, a Boston University graduate and principal of Smith, Costello & Crawford law group, said he believes cannabis stores will be open in Massachusetts by June 1.
“What the CCC did was enable real reforms and transparency,” Youmans said. These reforms, Youmans said, emphasize testing marijuana to ensure safety, as well as taxation as a heavy motivator for legalization.
Matt Kurtzman, principal of Canold, a data-focused cannabis consultation company, said he thinks the money coming in from cannabis sales will bolster local communities.
“There’s a lot of positive things that this money can do for the community in a lot of ways,” he said.
In addition to examining the details of what adult use facilities would look like in Massachusetts, the CCC’s draft regulations focus on creating equity in the industry.
Beth Waterfall, chairwoman of the Boston chapter of Women Grow, said the creation of the new industry is providing opportunities that women and minorities have never had before.
“Never before have women, people of color, LGBTQA+ persons and other underrepresented groups in traditional corporations had an opportunity to influence the creation of a new, multi-billion-dollar industry,” Waterfall wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press.
Marginalized groups, Waterfall wrote, could significantly influence the values of a lucrative, novel sector.
“Cannabis presents that opportunity for all of us who felt pushed aside, disrespected or harassed in our lives and careers to come together and inject the values that we want to see in this new, huge industry,” she wrote.
Waterfall is the executive director at ELEVATE New England, a nonprofit that helps members of these marginalized groups break into the cannabis business, set to launch Wednesday. According to Youmans, of the 19 dispensaries currently active in Massachusetts, only one is operated by a woman.
Aside from the CCC’s attention to diversifying the industry, Meg Sanders, CEO of Mindful and managing director at Revolutionary Clinics, said the new draft regulations will open up new opportunities for patients to use medical cannabis.
“Some of the patients we see are on public assistance or on disability, making $1,000 a month — how are they supposed to spend $200 to get a medical card, and then, go buy cannabis?” Sanders said. “Adult use is sometimes need based because a lot of people can’t or won’t get their card, this is another opportunity for them to heal using the plant.”
While the passage of the draft regulations by Massachusetts’ CCC enable local sales of marijuana, the drug remains illegal on a federal level.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memorandum on marijuana’s legality, repealing a memorandum made under the Obama administration that eased enforcement of federal law in states where marijuana has been legalized.
As the battle over state and federal rights of this matter continues, Waterfall wrote, concerned citizens should contact their representatives to push for widespread legalization.
“AG Sessions is doing his job for his administration, and the rest of us need to do our job by pressing our members of Congress to change marijuana’s legal status,” she wrote. “It’s only a matter of time before the rest of Congress has no other choice but to take similar action to protect cannabis patients and businesses across the country.”
Some, including Sanders, believe the debate is unifying people on both sides of a polarized political climate behind a common cause.
“There’s opportunity,” Sanders said. “There’s business opportunity, there’s jobs being created, the patients that are using this plant are being hired in this space. That’s really what pushed me — meeting patients every day and understanding how important it was.”