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US (MA): Creating opportunities for those most impacted by the war on drugs

"This fall, the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations to implement Massachusetts’ equity reform law became official, representing the most wide-ranging changes to the Commonwealth’s regulated marijuana marketplace in six years and a historic accomplishment for advocates, operators, regulators, and the Legislature. As a result, our agency is now entrusted with oversight of local contracts between host communities and licensees, as well as efforts at the municipal level to increase inclusivity in the industry. However, a single legislative update may provide the greatest opportunity for individuals directly impacted by the war on drugs," say Nurys Camargo and Ava Callender Concepcion.

The marijuana employment amendment—passed unanimously by the state Senate before being adopted in the House and then signed into law by Gov. Baker in August 2022—now bans all prior criminal convictions, including marijuana offense-related dispositions, from automatically disqualifying individuals from working for most cannabis licensees unless the offense involved distribution of a controlled substance to a minor. "In doing so, the Commonwealth has cleared the way for gainful employment in the legal industry by the communities most impacted by drug policies that disproportionately incarcerated people of color, and eliminated a blanket regulatory ban that previously prevented employers from even considering their hire."

"Legalization brought a sense of hope, belonging, and inspiration for those most impacted by marijuana prohibition; many believed it would address historical injustices, make products safer, and bring economic gains to those harmed by previous policies. Fortunately, much of that vision has come to fruition."

Today, Massachusetts’ adult-use cannabis industry has generated more than $5 billion in sales, or roughly $1 billion in tax revenue, and millions more in non-tax revenue through licensing and application fees. More than 570 licensed marijuana establishments have commenced operations, 102 medical marijuana treatment centers are open, and nearly 100,000 residents are now registered medical patients. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, and more than 20,0000 employees, benefit from growing, manufacturing, and selling the biggest cash crop in our state."


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