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Massachusetts Awards Weed Delivery Licenses Exclusively to Social Equity Applicants

The unprecedented policy aims to address the damage wrought by the war on drugs.

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State officials and cannabis entrepreneurs in Massachusetts hope the recently launched weed delivery business provides a model for other states. The state system focuses not only on regulating an emerging area of the cannabis industry but also on social equity and addressing the damage wrought by the war on drugs.

A major component of the state’s system is to allow only companies with minority owners impacted by the war on drugs to receive a delivery-only license for the first three years that delivery is legal. The program falls under the state’s Social Equity Program (SEP).

An example of this is the company We Can Deliver, which is delivering cannabis products for the dispensary Cultivate in Framingham, west of Boston.

“Massachusetts kind of set the tone for other states,” Brianna Grignon of Cultivate told CBS Boston. The dispensary was the first to open in the state. “We are now writing the new norm for the American dream. I think we are bettering our wrongs that we have done to this country. How many people have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs?”

RELATED: 3 Women Who Are Trailblazing Social Equity Programs

Strict guidelines 

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission defines the goal of the SEP program as creating a cannabis industry in the state that includes “sustainable pathways into the cannabis industry” for people impacted by the war on drugs, including those from areas with disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates.

Cannabis industry businesses who qualify receive fee waivers and exclusive license types. The latter includes exclusive access to social consumption and delivery-only license types for up to three years. The state also waives application fees and some monthly program fees, including a 50 percent reduction in annual license fees.

The eligibility requirements include the following.

  • Income equal to or below 400 percent of area median income
  • Residency for five of the last 10 years in an “area of disproportionate impact,” which the commission defines
  • Massachusetts residency for at least the past 12 months and a “conviction or continuance without a finding for an offense” for a marijuana possession offense. People also can qualify if they were married to or the child of someone with a marijuana possession conviction.
  • Companies can also qualify if an individual listed as an owner lived for five of the preceding 10 years in an “area of disproportionate impact” or have experience in at least one previous position in an area where the war on drugs disproportionately impacted the population. They also can qualify if their primary responsibilities included economic education, resource provision or empowerment to disproportionately impacted individuals or communities.
  • Applicants also must be of Black, Hispanic or Latino descent.

RELATED: California Gives $15 Million to Cannabis Social Equity Program Participants

Example of a former dealer turned driver

Gabe Salazar of We Can Deliver offers an example of how fast things have changed as cannabis legalization has swept many parts of the country. He once sold illegal weed. Now, he’s gone from criminal to delivery driver in the eyes of the law.

“I’ve gotten stabbed in my head three times over an ounce of weed. You know, I’ve been shot at over a pound of weed. To do this legally, it doesn’t even feel real,” Salazar told CBS Boston.

Cultivate has an app where people can check to see if delivery is an option to their area. Cultivate and We Can Deliver also offer a glimpse into the security measures needed for cannabis delivery drivers.

For example, delivery people wear body cameras and have cameras inside the cabin of their delivery vehicle. There also are cameras mounted in the trunk. “We are constantly monitoring our team, and we’re making sure that everything gets done,” said Grignon.

Currently, delivery accounts for about 15 percent of business. But Cultivate expects that number to rise quickly.

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