Back in February, we blogged about the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy (the “Committee”) releasing a cannabis bill (H. 174/S. 72) through Committee without any opposition. This bill proposed major changes to host community agreements (“HCA”), re-vamped the state’s approach to social equity in the industry, and provided a legislative fix to permit on-site consumption establishments.
The bill was amended in another committee and the Senate adopted several amendments. On April 8, the bill (now numbered S. 2801) was passed unanimously by the Senate.
We provide a thorough summary of the provisions of the bill in our prior post (including changes to community impact fees, creation of consumption establishments, updates to the social equity program, and development of the Social Equity Trust Fund). Below we break down the major changes between that version and the version passed by the Senate.
The most significant change in the bill passed by the Senate is that S. 2801 eliminates the sections which would have retroactively interfered with existing HCAs (and renders the safe harbor provision unnecessary). In the initial version of the bill, all operating marijuana establishments and treatment centers would have been required to immediately renegotiate their existing HCAs to comply with the new requirements under the bill. Under the version passed by the Senate, an establishment or treatment center need not update their HCA until seeking to renew their license. This change is expected to lessen the disruptions for operators, as operators will not need to, all at once, re-negotiate each of their HCAs.
The Senate bill included several amendments as well:
- Clarifying that the CCC is not required to approve all HCAs (which was ambiguous in the last version of the bill).
- Implementing criteria for the CCC’s review of HCAs and community impact fees, and allows municipalities to appeal the CCC’s decision.
- Authorizing the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to report annually on expenditures from the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. That report shall be available to the public.
- Permitting individuals with prior criminal convictions to be eligible for employment in connection with marijuana establishments (other than independent testing laboratories).
- Requiring the CCC to develop regulations that ensure applicants to receive funds from the Social Equity Trust Fund come from all license types.
- Establishing a 120-day review period for the CCC to review new HCAs.
- Requiring the CCC to develop a model HCA to serve as a guide.
- Requiring the CCC to develop regulations that will limit the ability of social equity businesses to sale, transfer, or pledge assets/interest to a non-social equity or economic empowerment business.
The bill has moved to the House of Representatives for further consideration. House leaders previously indicated that addressing marijuana regulation in the state is a key issue they want to address, and Speaker Ron Mariano stated that this is a priority for him this session.