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It Looks Like There Won’t Be An Increase To The License Cap–For Now

“The entire industry deserves an opportunity to be heard before any major changes in rules are made—particularly those that will benefit the largest businesses.”

There’s been an unusual amount of cannabis-related action on Beacon Hill this week. For the end of a session, during crunch time when every conceivable issue is up in the air as state lawmakers wrestle on deadline, weed has consumed more State House oxygen than anyone could have expected even a month ago.

Most notably, Mass Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro followed up his June letter detailing dysfunction at the Cannabis Control Commission with a full-on campaign calling for agency receivership, culminating with a hearing on Tuesday. At the time of this writing, legislators are still weighing that so-called “nuclear option,” along with other cann-amendments that could surface on the Senate side. But in at least one other case, it’s noteworthy that a measure did not succeed.

While the IG and others are calling for CCC receivership, a group of industry lobbyists and mostly larger marijuana businesses has been pushing for an increase in the number of retail licenses that one owner can have. They made their case in major media outlets, all while working to slide language into bills that would, per one iteration, increase the current cap of three licenses by four, provided such ownership of the four new licenses was 49% or less.

The group Equitable Opportunities Now, which advocates for Social Equity applicants, bird-dogged the cap increase lunge and united dozens of operators against proposed changes. The coalition wrote to lawmakers in June: “Enabling the most profitable businesses to acquire more market share at the expense of equity businesses will make Massachusetts a less attractive market to investors and operators looking to expand from other states and could cause a race to the bottom on the value of equity licenses as has happened in other states that have loosened their ownership restrictions.”

Mass EON also noted: “There has not been a hearing on any bill to increase the license cap, and the entire industry deserves an opportunity to be heard before any major changes in rules are made—particularly those that will benefit the largest businesses at the expense of other licensees.”

And with it now looking like the license cap increase is no longer on the table, at least in the current legislative session, EON Policy Co-Chair Kevin Gilnack thanked Senate leaders in a letter, writing: “On behalf of Equitable Opportunities Now, the Mass. Cannabis Equity Council, and the 40 cannabis business leaders and advocates across the Commonwealth who oppose changing cannabis license ownership limits, thank you to each of you for not filing an amendment to the Economic Development bill trying to rush through such a change, as occurred in the House.”

Gilnack and EON also urged senators, “and your colleagues in the House,” “to focus on passing policies that have been favorably reported by Committee and enjoy broad support before the end of session, including medical vertical de-integration, supporting social equity businesses, improving access for veterans and first responders, and more.” Those are:

  • Amendment #52: Supporting Cannabis Equity Businesses sponsored by Sen. Jason Lewis

  • Amendment #436: Cannabis career pathways for justice-involved individuals sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen

“We are proud to share that these policies have the support of the Massachusetts Patients Advocacy Alliance and Mass CultivatED, in addition to the [40-plus signees of the aforementioned EON letter to lawmakers],” Gilnack continued. “Thank you again for all your work to support cannabis social equity businesses and advance our shared goal of encouraging full participation in this new industry.”

Editor’s note: EON recently presented TJM Editor Chris Faraone with an award for his work covering social equity in cannabis. He did not receive a monetary gift but was honored to accept an engraved cup in person and thank the group for the recognition.