Boston Cannabis Board Process Deemed “Inequitable” by City Councilors

Councilor Lydia Edwards (District 1) and Council President Kim Janey (District 7) proposed an ordinance to address the lack of equity and transparency of the cannabis industry in Boston. A version of this marijuana ordinance has been pushed by Council President Janey since 2019, resulting in the creation of the Boston Cannabis Board in February 2020.

City Councilors discuss making the cannabis industry in Boston more transparent and equitable during the weekly City Council meeting. Photo by Alyssa Nations.

“If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am,” said Councilor Edwards during the City Council’s weekly meeting.

Councilor Edwards raised her points of contention with the rules and regulations that the Boston Cannabis Board adopted this July. According to the proposal, the point of creating the board was to allow it to review and execute host community agreements (HCAs). However, as it currently stands, the board “does not have the authority or ability to negotiate host community agreements.”

She pointed out that the HCAs are meant to undergo a public deliberation to ensure transparency of the process. Under the ordinance, a timeline for HCAs would be established and be included in the initial request before the board.

The Boston Cannabis Board also did not differentiate between types of services when establishing the 1:1 ratio for granting equity licenses. “We do not call that equity in the City of Boston,” stated Councilor Edwards, pointing to the likelihood that those with brick-and-mortar spaces would take advantage of delivery services with employees who were primarily minorities in order to achieve the required 1:1 ratio.

The ordinance would create different license classes and fees for brick-and-mortar dispensaries and delivery services.

“We know that if we don’t act, we will continue to perpetuate the status quo and we know who the status quo will benefit,” said Council President Janey. “It will benefit large companies, mostly from outside of our area.”