Daily News

Holyoke Event to Focus on Equity in Massachusetts Cannabis Industry

HOLYOKE — Massachusetts is the first U.S. state to implement a statewide social equity program in the cannabis industry and has done so by creating opportunities for those disproportionately impacted by the drug war to have priority access in the industry and broader social-equity program. As the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) gears up in 2019 with targeted technical assistance for economic empowerment and social-equity applicants, opportunity exists to encourage private-sector collaboration and cooperation among big and small businesses in the emerging Massachusetts cannabis industry. 

Veterans Alternative Healing Inc. (VAH), Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN), and Joint Venture & Co. are hosting an event on Thursday, April 18 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Gateway City Arts in Holyoke on the topic of “Cannabis Equity: Big Business and Small Business Working Together.” To register for this free event, visit www.cannacenterofexcellence.org/veteran.

As the CCC continues to actively bolster the state’s social-equity program, a complimentary and collaborative effort from the private sector can help ensure that those disproportionately impacted by the drug war have meaningful inclusion in the cannabis industry.

As of April 4, the CCC has received 3,062 total applications, but only 347 (13%) from companies identified as ‘disadvantaged business enterprise’ (DBE). To date, 87% of applicants did not identify as a DBE, 0.3% were disability-owned, 0.9% veteran-owned, 1.4% LGBTQ-owned, 2.3% minority-owned, and 2.9% women-owned, and 4.9% identified as two or more DBE types. The lack of diversity is clear, and as the CCC baseline study reports, capital is the largest barrier to entry for minority businesses. In addition to other efforts the CCC is taking to address identified barriers, it is also actively looking for qualified training vendors for the social-equity program expected to launch this year.

Keynote speakers for the event include Cannabis Control Commissioner Steve Hoffman, BASK CEO Chapman Dickerson, and MRCC Community Director Joe Gilmore. Two panel discussions will be held at the event. The first will focus on inclusion and diversity in entrepreneurship and employment, and ideas for constructive collaboration across the industry. Speakers include Hoffman, Stephen Mandile, Karima Rizk, Shamika Rucker, and Horace Small. The second panel will focus on policy, business, and education models in Western Mass. for inclusion and diversity, with speakers Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, Mark Zatryka from INSA, and Jeff Hayden from Holyoke Community College. 

Study data from the VAH, C3RN, and UMass Dartmouth’s ongoing Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Research Study will be released at the event as well.

Veterans interested in participating in the study will complete an anonymous online survey and see how their results compared to other participating veterans’ answers. All study participants will receive access to cannabis-related discounts, attend monthly support groups managed by VAH, and can elect to participate in additional clinical cannabis studies. The study team has partnered with the Massachusetts chapter of Disabled American Veterans, Revolutionary Clinics, AmeriCann, BASK, the Botanist, the Healing Rose, INSA, and Central Ave Compassionate Care. Study media sponsors include NECANN, SENSI magazine, and Weedmaps. For participating in the study, veterans will receive discounts from the following cannabis and wellness companies in Massachusetts: Revolutionary Clinics, AmeriCann, BASK, the Botanist, the Healing Rose, INSA, and Central Ave Compassionate Care. Veterans can take the survey  at www.cannacenterofexcellence.org/veteran.