BOSTON — The Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED) launched the Immediate Needs Grant Program, which will provide financial assistance from the state’s Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. The first of its kind in Massachusetts, this new grant program will make financial assistance available for cannabis entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. The program aims to increase equity and opportunity within state’s regulated marijuana industry.
This inaugural funding round will make $2.3 million available to support qualified cannabis business license holders with urgent financial needs. It will be the first of several programs, which will launch as additional resources become available in the trust fund.
“The Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund was created to ensure that communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana regulations have an equal opportunity to engage in this new industry,” Gov. Maura Healey said. “The programs enabled by this fund highlight our commitment to supporting social-equity businesses and will help strengthen the industry and our economy.”
The Legislature enacted the enabling law for this program in August 2022. As part of the FY 2023 closeout supplemental budget enacted in November 2023, the Healey-Driscoll administration partnered with the Legislature to resolve technical issues affecting the funding mechanism.
EOED is charged with administering the fund in consultation with the Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board. The board met five times in 2023 to help inform trust-fund regulations and program development.
“For the past year, I’ve had the honor of working alongside my fellow board members to educate, advise, and discuss the important, strategic, and beneficial topics and areas that we believed should be captured in regulating the fund and application process,” said Keisha Brice, chair of the Cannabis Social Equity Advisory Board.
“The Social Equity Trust Fund will play a crucial role in upholding the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ promise to support people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” she went on. “In partnership with the EOED, I believe what we have drafted is a reflection of a fair process that is equitable, commits to our fiduciary responsibilities, and still allows room for growth as the industry evolves and we learn from this initial process. I look forward to our ongoing commitment to making an impact on what social equity in cannabis looks like in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I encourage everyone to continue advocating for change as there’s more work to be done.”
Added state Sen. Adam Gomez, “as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, I recognize the importance of reframing the narrative around cannabis policy in the Commonwealth. Despite being a fairly new industry, the upsides of the cannabis market are evidenced by the state’s tax revenue and the thousands of families who have a newfound hope after choosing cannabidiol as an alternative. Now our focus must be on acknowledging the lack of representation in the marijuana industry by the very people who were disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. The launch of the inaugural round of the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund is encouraging news as the fund will seek to right many wrongs.”