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Sadly, Cannabis Equity Initiative Flames Out

By Margaret F. Ross
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Last week, as a result of a lawsuit filed by medical marijuana dispensary Revolutionary Clinics, a Massachusetts judge lifted Cambridge’s two-year moratorium on the issuance of certain cannabis permits. This moratorium allowed “economic empowerment candidates” such as women, minorities, and those impacted by the war on drugs to be the sole operators of recreational marijuana shops in Cambridge.

We regret that the moratorium was not carried out to its two-year term. Lauding the Cambridge City Council’s creativity, we welcomed the moratorium as a genuine effort to both improve socioeconomic equality and remedy historical injustices in Cambridge. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. Upon its passing, we voiced concerns about the scope of economic empowerment candidate being too broad, arguing its inclusion of all women extended this grouping beyond those most impacted by the war on drugs. Nevertheless, we are deeply disappointed that the moratorium was terminated after only a few months, barely touching its two-year mandate. This early termination, without the suggestion of any concrete alternative policies to increase accessibility to the Cambridge marijuana industry for minority groups wronged by the war on drugs, seems indicative of a weak commitment to equal access and the remedying of historical injustices.

Cambridge it seems will not find out whether, given two years of implementation, great strides would have been made in righting historical wrongs and assisting those impacted by unequal policing. We simply know that no concrete attempts to accomplish this goal are being undertaken now at the municipal level, and that troubles us.

This has not stopped individuals from stepping forward and flimsily committing themselves to the goal of assisting economic empowerment candidates. Keith W. Cooper, CEO of Revolutionary Clinics, said that, despite the moratorium ending, he is not going to “take this victory and turn our backs on that program, [they’re] going to actually support it.” This sort of rhetoric, given that Cooper’s company actively challenged the moratorium in court, is not at all reassuring. Rather, it reinforced the idea that socioeconomic equality and accessibility should be apportioned by generous, largely white business owners. We don’t buy that such a system — predicated on unequal power dynamics and lacking in any sort of assurances — will really do what it claims it will.

So what should the City Council do? First, it is imperative that the City Council works quickly to develop a solution to the dearth of marijuana dispensaries in Cambridge to ensure that patients prescribed medical marijuana can easily access it in their hometown. Second, the City Council should reconsider previous proposals it has been presented with aimed at providing groups wronged by the war on drugs assistance in entering the marijuana market. Prior to the approval of the Cambridge moratorium, an alternate proposal by Councillor E. Denise Simmons — albeit one originally backed by Revolutionary Clinics — was presented that would have allowed other businesses to open dispensaries if they donated to an independent fund that would provide financial assistance to economic empowerment candidates opening marijuana dispensaries. In a market where lack of capital prevents minority business owners from entering the recreational marijuana industry, innovative proposals like Councillor Simmons’ should be thoroughly considered.

If the City is truly serious about economic empowerment and equal accessibility, we need to see alternative policies and other efforts that reflect that strong commitment carried to their full term.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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