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UMass Law Review hosts symposium on “Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry”

After working with Visiting Assistant Professor Garrett Halydier, Esq. at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa on two of his articles about cannabis regulation, editors at UMass Law Review decided to bring him to campus as the keynote speaker in this year's symposium, "Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry" held at UMass Law last week.

"After a year and a half of being on law review, I was approached with the opportunity to help plan the symposium. I thought this would be an exciting new challenge and would allow me to learn about an area of law I was unfamiliar with," said Rachel Wright, conference editor for UMass Law Review.

"We wanted to focus the symposium on an issue that correlated with the articles we would be publishing in our journal this year," added Wright. "Although we considered several different issues, we ultimately landed on social equity in the cannabis industry."

"I hope that students walk away from the symposium feeling excited about an area of law that they may not have previously known a lot about," said Lauren Thomas, business editor of UMass Law Review.

In addition to Halydier's keynote, two panels were presented. "The History of Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry" featured Timothy Shea, Esq., former acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency; Thomas Quinn, Esq., district attorney of Bristol County, MA; Alexis Tkachuk, Esq., director of the MA Office of Emerging Industries; and Halydier. UMass Law Professor Hillary Farber served as moderator.

The second panel, "Implementing and Redefining Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry," included Kyle Potvin, Esq., inaugural director of licensing in the investigations and enforcement department at the MA Cannabis Control Commission and a graduate of UMass Dartmouth and UMass Law; Jason Ortiz, director of strategic initiatives for the Last Prisoner Project; Ulysses Youngblood, Major Bloom's founder and president; and Phil Silverman, Esq., a partner in Vicente LLP's Boston office.

Students are excited to learn about a new area of law
"The students involved at UMass Law Review did a spectacular job creating a symposium that gave me a real overview of the many facets of cannabis legalization. Panel 1 presented a more conservative and political agenda around legalization, while Panel 2 brought an engaging diversity of voices and ideas. It was refreshing to hear from panelists from different backgrounds and socio-economic status to understand the ways that legalization has affected different Massachusetts communities," said Jennifer Adams, JD candidate '25.

"As a Public Interest Law Fellow, I attend many different speakers, panels, events, etc., at UMass. Many of these events are centered around one area of law. UMass Law Review presented a thorough overview of the many areas of law that are involved in cannabis legalization, thus informing the attendees of multiple career paths to explore upon completion of our JDs," Adams added.

"Today's Law Review Symposium was a truly unique and informative event that demonstrates what the UMass Law Review team can accomplish. Listening to the thought-provoking and essential conversations led by the numerous accomplished speakers who were kind enough to visit our school was an experience I would not trade for anything. I learned so much about the constantly evolving field of law surrounding the cannabis industry, and I cannot wait to see what our next symposium has to offer," said Jack Lovely, JD candidate '25.

Halydier's many research fields include cannabis law
Halydier's research explores the dynamics between regulation and industry development as well as the legal, economic, and social history of pharmaceutical industries, with a recent focus on these dynamics as embodied by social equity and economic regulations in the cannabis industry.

His article entitled "We(ed) Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident: All Things Cannabis Are Inequitable" was published in the Winter 2024 edition of UMass Law Review, and the second, entitled "We(ed) the People of Cannabis, in Order to Form a More Equitable Industry: A Theory for Imagining New Social Equity Approaches to Cannabis Regulation," will be published in the Spring 2024 edition.

"If all we ask for is 'equity,' there will never be justice," said Halydier in his address. "To address societal inequities requires societal level solution. Social equity as an administrative concept can only plug the holes left in the execution of legislation, but it cannot form the basis of the legislation itself.

"The level of legalization is the single largest lever in pursuit of justice," he added. "If the default is legality, then everyone has an opportunity to act without fear of reprisal for simply engaging with the industry, and we can provide resources to address resulting inequities over time. But if we only let a few people act legally while continuing to criminalize all other activity, is it any wonder that inequity thrives?"

UMass Law students engage with experts in current legal issues
"The faculty at UMass Law work tirelessly to provide opportunities for students to learn about different aspects of the law," said Thomas. "A lot of this is done by empowering and encouraging student organizations to bring speakers to our campus who can share their knowledge and expertise with our student body. The symposium is a perfect example of this.

"One of many decisions we had to make as an incoming Law Review E-Board was whether we wanted to bring back our annual Law Review Symposium, which had gone on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic," she added. "We knew that it would be a large undertaking, however, we also knew that it would be a tremendous step forward for our Law Review."

Wright credits UMass Law for its range of student organizations that provide a variety of speakers who enable students to learn about various current issues in the legal field. "UMass Law does a great job offering opportunities for students to be involved through internships, field placements, and volunteering in a variety of areas of the law," she said.


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