The Cannabis Control Commission yesterday voted to adopt a Model Municipal Equity Bylaw or Ordinance Template.

The CCC published its draft of the template on April 2 and accepted public comment through April 25. By a vote of 3-0, with Commissioner Nurys Camargo absent, the commission adopted the draft without making substantive changes.

The comprehensive cannabis law enacted two years ago (Chapter 180 of the Acts of 2022) requires the CCC to develop policies and procedures to ensure that those who have been disproportionately harmed by the enforcement of marijuana laws are guaranteed fair and equitable access to the industry and to promote their full participation. This work includes advisory guidelines, best practices and minimum acceptable policy standards.

The CCC’s equity guidance states that municipalities that host cannabis retailers, whether recreational or medical, will need to take one of three recommended actions in order to comply with the new standards:
• Adopt the Model Municipal Equity Bylaw or Ordinance once it is finalized by the CCC
• Adopt their own bylaw or ordinance to exclusively permit social equity businesses for a period of three years
• Create a local approval process for equity applicants on a one-to-one basis, approving other applicants only after a social equity business has begun operations and half of licensees operating in the municipality are social equity businesses

The CCC’s model equity bylaw/ordinance requires the municipality to:
• Post its local requirements, process and contacts related to local cannabis license approval
• Create a municipal equity plan for its cannabis licensing
• Create policies and procedures to ensure equity applicants are identified for preference

The model also requires municipalities to fulfill a number of “equity standards,” including providing translators or interpreters, as well as certain contract flexibilities.

The MMA and the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association jointly submitted comments to the CCC on April 25 raising serious concerns about the draft Model Municipal Equity Bylaw or Ordinance. The comments addressed issues including the proposed timeline, conflicting governance, ambiguities, and burdensome requirements for municipalities.

“Municipalities are eager to be good-faith partners with cannabis licensees and support equity [within] their borders,” the MMA and MMLA wrote in their conclusion, “but they cannot bear the onus of creating equity within the industry, a responsibility that is better served by regulators and those within the industry.”

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