Thank you to our readers: CCC updates and “big cannabis" headlines

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Today, a huge Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) hearing, we’ve got a rundown on what to expect and live streaming coverage of it all.

We also have “big cannabis” news headlines: Columbia Care, Patriot Care dispensaries in Massachusetts, publicly advertising for help with “union avoidance'', Curaleaf’s owner compares his company to Frito Lay and Coca Cola, and NETA loses a union battle while announcing a leadership change. 

And news on how a Salem, Massachusetts Host Community Agreement lawsuit has split the CCC and what it could mean for operators who are struggling to get local approval. 

HCA Lawsuit divides CCC

There were some questions asked about a recent Cannabis Control Commission decision in particular related to the amicus brief that the CCC voted to send to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court laying out its current Host Community Agreement process.

That HCA process, through which local cities and towns must agree to extend an applicant a license before that applicant can enter into the state-level license queue, has proved a hindrance to equity as there is no equity mandate for that municipal process of any kind (and, in some cities that have put forward strong HCA equity periods, corporate operators have sued --and lost -- while disgustingly claiming "reverse racism").

In that context, Commissioner Shaleen Title vehemently disagreed with the decision of her three fellow Commissioners to send that amicus brief, and her reasoning is important to breakdown (even if, sadly, she was outvoted on the issue).

For context; last month, the SJC put out a call for amicus (friend of the court) briefs related to a case where an operator in Salem filed suit against that city because it has met all of their HCA criteria and as the company is not being given an HCA, the CCC's authority as a licensing body is being undermined.

As of right now, the CCC is not a party to the case, but submitting an amicus brief where the agency defends a broken HCA process could potentially sway the SJC's ruling (when it is announced in a few months).

Thus, Commissioner Title made the well-reasoned argument that the CCC should not write to the Justices in support of their current HCA policy because the CCC does not currently enforce the 3% cap on local contributions by and through those HCA's (the agency currently only verifies the HCA has a signature and do not verify compliance with state law).

It was Commissioner Title, three years ago, who was the only Commissioner to vote to enforce that 3% cap (the other Commissioners felt the CCC lacked sufficient legal authority to do so under the law).

Alas, after 3 years the legislature did pass a bill (H.4367) through the House this year to fix that HCA process (however it's possible the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, through the case in question, will rule that HCA's are no longer required going forward), although sadly that bill has stalled in a Senate Committee.

While that bill would go a long way towards fixing the broken HCA process statewide (including ensuring the CCC would enforce the 3% in those agreements), removing the HCA requirement entirely would, according to remarks by Commissioner Title, "revolutionize the process and the industry from an equity perspective".

As such, Commissioner Title noted that she is exploring if she can send a brief to the court explaining the deficiencies in the HCA process that have created, as explained during the meeting, one of the largest barriers to equity in the licensing process (which I feel is very much a true statement).

HCA local coverage:

Columbia Care, Patriot Care advertise for “union avoidance”

Last week, we received a job posting from Columbia Care, a multi-state operator (MSO), the parent company of Massachusetts dispensary chain, Patriot Care. The job listed “major areas of responsibility” which included assisting “with union avoidance activities as needed”. After the screen capture was shared, generating 80 plus comments and 200 plus up-votes on the Boston Trees Reddit, the MSO changed the job listing and then later deleted it completely. 

NETA shakeup

New England Treatment Access (NETA) leadership change; Amanda Rositano has resigned as President of Parallel in Massachusetts (NETA’s parent company) and been replaced by Joe Daddario, a past VP for Columbia Care. 

Dan Adams of the Boston Globe noted the announcement took place in the same week that the State Board of Labor ruled in favor of UFCW union representation for agriculture workers at NETA’s manufacturing and cultivation site in the town of Franklin. 

Two sons of Boston were arrested for marijuana. Now they plan to open Hyde Park’s first legal cannabis shop, Boston Globe, 11/29/2020

Former Boston firefighter Sean Berte and Roxbury activist Armani White team up for “Evergreen”.

Big medical and adult-use cannabis is like sugar water and junk food!?

Inside Curaleaf Billionaire Boris Jordan’s Hunger To Become The ‘Frito-Lay’ Of Cannabis, Forbes, 11/27/2020

“I look at Curaleaf as a consumer-packaged-goods company,” says Jordan, who assumed control of Curaleaf in 2013 through his private equity company and took it public on the Canadian Stock Exchange in 2018. “We’re making the products much more mainstream for our customer base—we’ll be no different than Coca-Cola or Frito-Lay.” 

Massachusetts cannabis applicant raises $2000+ for Dartmouth Humane Society

Between The Rows, co-founder, Averyl Andrade has created a raffle with craft products from local cannabis artisans to benefit the Dartmouth, Massachusetts based Humane Society and Shelter SouthCoast which thus far has raised more than two thousand dollars. Between The Rows LLC is a craft cannabis co-op that has been approved for economic empowerment through the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

VT patient prosecuted criminally for growing cannabis to treat paralysis

Pot prosecution of paralyzed NEK man raises policy concerns, VTDigger, 11/24/2020

Charging a patient and his caregivers (caught with a whopping 15 plants) for a felony offense, “carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years or a $500,000 fine.”

CCC hearing on Monday

After nearly 3 months of delays, mostly caused by the greed of some corporate cannabis operators who attempted to use lies and bad faith propaganda to undermine the rollout of the equity delivery operator model, today at 10 am will be the final vote on the updated adult and medical regulations currently under consideration by the Cannabis Control Commission.

As part of the historic final vote, the Commission stands on the precipice of breaking up the centralized flow of artificially inflated profits to a select group of adult/medical dispensary owners that have plagued the state's nascent market from its inception; from expanded access to pro-bono caregivers and medical patient home grows to the creation of the equity delivery operator model, so much of the Commission's important work over the past few years is, at last, coming to fruition.

The very fact that these changes were able to occur is also, without qualification, a testament to the inspiring work of so many individuals in this grassroots community.

There is no doubt that the unholy alliance of corporate cannabis (and their front groups) alongside prohibitionist lawmakers, would have succeeded in their insidious quest to undermine the proposed regulations were it not for so many individual activists and advocates who were willing to stand up, at public comment or otherwise, and oppose that abhorrent behavior.

In that way, despite its challenges, the wins put on the board this year have given so many reasons to be grateful and tomorrow's vote will no doubt be another moment on that list.

One can already sense the co-presence of history in the lead up to tomorrow morning's hearing, as there is no doubt in my mind that the cannabis industry in the Commonwealth will have forever changed for the positive going forward.

No group of companies, regardless of their resources or political connections, is entitled to undermine the regulatory process to protect their profits at the expense of equity and a fair market structure.

As always, though, there is more work yet to be done; a broken host community agreement process that is facilitating both municipal malfeasance and corporate corruption, the fact that not even a single dollar from last years $70.6 million in cannabis excise tax revenue went to communities that were harmed by the drug war (despite such funding being mandated by state law), and a lack of an equity mandate for local cities and towns when issuing municipal level permits are just some of the litany of barriers that have been created (intentionally or otherwise) for local equity applicants during the roll-out of adult and medical use cannabis in Massachusetts.

It is also expected that at least a few corporate operators will attempt to sue the Commission to prevent the equity delivery license application process from going forward, but multiple attorneys, speaking at a CCC public comment session this month, called such a lawsuit "nonsensical".

The Young Jurks will stream tomorrow's 10 am hearing on their Facebook page, along with a Grant Smith hosted pre-show starting at around 9:15 am with guests, Blake Mensing, Dr. Marion McNabb, Aaron Goines, and Lorna McCafferty.

We look forward to watching history unfold with you all.

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