Mass Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board To Regroup After Setback

Will be first meeting since members learned initial trust fund balance will be much less than expected

As we first reported more than two months ago, Massachusetts Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board (CSEAB) members were outraged to learn in a meeting on June 16 that a fund established to help disadvantaged applicants will yield tens of millions of dollars less than expected.

Following our initial coverage (“Cannabis Social Equity Advisors Discuss Funding Delay, Get Disappointing News”), the story was picked up by larger local non-cannabis news outlets as well as national weed sites—from the Boston Business Journal, to NBC 10 Boston, to MJ Biz Daily, and Green Market Report, which ran the sub-headline, “Money for the fund was collected, but never transferred into the fund itself.”

There are currently more than 600 Social Equity, Economic Equity, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise applicants in the provisional phases of licensing. In 2022, this group got what seemed like promising news, when a state Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board was established by the Legislature “to advise the Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED) as EOED administers the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund.”

The legislation also created the CSEAB to “advise the Executive Office of Economic Development on the development of regulations, administration, and reporting of the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund,” which “was established to encourage the full participation in the state’s regulated marijuana industry of entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.”

But at the June meeting, CSEAB members learned that rather than the tens of millions expected to move into the pot from 2022 sales, the starting balance of the fund will only likely be $2 million to $4 million. Apparently it’s not as simple as calculating 15% of the Marijuana Regulation Fund, which for FY 2022, when the state collected $156,669,255, would be more than $20 million. Also, as of that meeting, there was no bank account yet, and there hadn’t been a transfer, so technically there was no fund in the first place. All of which upset a number of board members.

We reached out to two appointees to the advisory board for further comment, but both had concerns about violating the open meeting law or compromising their relationship with fellow members. But on Monday, Aug. 28, many of them will have plenty to say at the first meeting since June’s bombshell announcement. The virtual event begins at 4pm, is open to the public, and includes the following agenda items: Discussion around the Trust Fund Regulations, Update on Joint Appointee Board Member Nomination Process. The subsequent CSEAB meeting will be held on Sept. 25.