The video of my testimony in front of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy in support of Senate Bill 72 can be found here and I will post my written testimony. Written testimony to the committee will be accepted online until May 25 (details are available on the committee page here).
Testimony Regarding Host Community Agreements
Tuesday, May 11, 2021 11:00am
Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy
Shaleen Title, Distinguished Cannabis Policy Practitioner in Residence,
Vice Chair, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition
Former Commissioner, Cannabis Control Commission (2017-2020)
Dear Chairperson Chang-Diaz, Chairperson Donahue, and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to share my input about host community agreements and my strong support for S. 72. Thus far this Committee has, in my opinion, truly represented the people of Massachusetts with respect to cannabis.
Every cannabis business is required to have a host community agreement to operate. As of today, there are no practical limits whatsoever on what a host community may demand from a business in order to grant a host community agreement. With rare exceptions, host communities use these agreements not as part of a fair negotiation, but as a tool to hold hostage in exchange for significant financial benefits that go beyond the law.
This system unfairly favors those companies which can afford it and is one of the top reasons why only 8 out of 223 cannabis businesses operating in this state are economic empowerment and social equity businesses.
I am grateful to have been consulted on several of the bills being considered today. Many of them are excellent and contain different elements that would address this problem. After reviewing all of the bills, it is clear to me that S. 72 is the one comprehensive bill that would address all of the different systemic problems with the host community agreement process.
I specifically would like to call your attention to section 1 subsection 7 of S. 72 which I consider the most crucial. Currently, the Cannabis Control Commission is charged with creating policies that take into account the needs of disproportionately impacted people, but host communities are not. Subsection 7 fixes this inconsistency in a completely unspecified, nonprescriptive way, simply by allowing every municipality to decide for itself how it would like to contribute to the state’s established goal of including impacted communities in this industry. The current chairman and executive director of the Commission have asked for such a change (see #2 in the February 27, 2020 letter to your committee attached).
Having lived it, I know that just having a simple stated principle of equity to point to will remove some of the barriers that people who attempt to develop solutions on racial justice issues within government often face. You may know this too from your own work, but when people are working on true solutions to racial justice issues, they tend to be dismissed, condescended to, alienated, retaliated against, and most of all ignored, but I can tell you from experience that being able to point to a principle of equity in the law makes a seemingly impossible job seem more possible. When you consider making this small change, please remember all of the people who marched in the streets last year and why.
Thank you again for your consideration and please don’t hesitate to contact me for feedback anytime at email@example.com.