By Cassie McGrath – Reporter, Boston Business Journal Jul 24, 2023 Updated Jul 24, 2023 1:49am EDT
A bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature last August created a new fund that promised millions of dollars to equity-owned cannabis businesses. But nearly a year later, not a single dollar has been handed out because the fund remains empty.
Chapter 180, passed last summer, created a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund, intended to take 15% of the revenue collected from the sale of cannabis and give it to social equity and economic empowerment businesses, two licenses that are given to entrepreneurs who come from marginalized groups or who were harmed by the war on drugs. But according to preliminary minutes from a June meeting of the newly-created Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board, there is no money in the fund. The problem, according to state officials, is with the way the law is written. Revenue from adult-use cannabis sales is deposited into the Marijuana Regulation Fund. The 15% earmarked for the social equity fund can't be transferred from the Marijuana Regulation Fund until all the money is transferred to something called the Consolidated Net Surplus account. Officials from the Office for Administration and Finance said they are working to find an interim solution that would allow funds to be transferred this year, before the Consolidated Net Surplus transfer. This could make $2 million to $4 million available after a closeout supplemental budget is signed by Gov. Maura Healey, which is expected to happen in the fall. Meanwhile, cannabis entrepreneurs that could benefit from the equity fund say the capital is needed now. Social equity cannabis business owners have sent a petition to the state asking that their businesses take priority when the money is distributed, saying that they have been waiting the longest and are in dire need. “We've been promised financial support the longest, we've been waiting extremely long turns into this evolving conversation that just continues," Sieh Samura, co-owner and CEO of Yamba Market in Cambridge, one of the businesses on the petition, said. "Meanwhile, we're still here. Still here doing all this work, dealing with all the extreme, unreasonable costs, and really not getting our needs met." The Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board will meet again on Monday.