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Mass Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund Finally Pays Out

Some $50,000 grantees have been contacted by the state, formal announcement coming soon 

There were times when some stakeholders really felt like it wasn’t going to happen. While the Massachusetts legislature set up a Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund via statute in 2022 to help “entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition,” the bureaucratic lag started to weigh on business owners.

At one point, money for the grant and loan program even got caught up in a political wrestling match. Before that, the fact that nothing had been transferred into the fund even made national news. The whole time, members of the Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board, which was established to “work with and advise EOED on the promulgation of regulations and administration of the Trust Fund,” spoke out about the urgent need for the assistance with so many startups struggling.

But after more than a year of waiting, in January 2024 the administering Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED) formally announced the new initiative to “make financial assistance available to eligible applicants for the purpose of encouraging the full participation in the Commonwealth’s regulated marijuana industry,” plus published a draft of the regulations governing the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund along with the actual application.

“The Immediate Needs Grant Program, which will offer grants to support cannabis business license holders with urgent financial needs,” the EOED wrote. “The program will provide grants to eligible Marijuana Establishments and Medical Marijuana Treatment Center businesses (see Appendix I of the NOFA for definitions) in amounts up to $50,000 to support imminent or outstanding expenses essential to the operation of the business such as personnel costs, rent, utility or other facility expenses, loan repayments or debt service, regulatory fees, professional service payments or other expenses that support stabilizing the business.”

And now, three months later, applicants are starting to receive letters from Yvonne Hao, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the State of Massachusetts. Companies including Green Flash Delivery, Rolling Releaf, and BadaBloom Cannabis posted correspondence on social media pages that read:

Thank you for applying to the Immediate Needs Grant Program, the first initiative to distribute funding from the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. The program was designed to address the most urgent financial needs of cannabis business license holders that have social equity status. The EOED’s program team evaluated all the applications and recommended a grant to projects that most closely met the program’s eligibility criteria and requirements. 

On behalf of the Healey-Driscoll Administration, I am pleased to inform you that I have approved a grant from the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to support [your company’s] operations in the amount of $50,000. 

Please note that this grant award may be conditioned on the grantee providing final verification of eligibility, including but not limited to its Cannabis Control Commission license (active or pending renewal), social equity status, or ownership interests. No funding will be distributed until the grantee and EOED have executed a contract setting forth the terms and conditions of the grant. You will be required to submit applicable pre-contract forms to begin the contracting process. The Trust Fund Administrator will reach out directly with information about next steps.

We contacted the EOED for its official announcement, which they said is coming soon. We also asked Rolling Releaf if anyone there had something to say about the disbursement.

Company Co-Founder Devin Alexander kept it simple: “It’s about damn time,” he told Talking Joints Memo.