Melissa Hanson masslive.com
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The ability or rather right to deliver cannabis has come under fire in Massachusetts where some are arguing over who has access to delivery licenses.
Chris Fevry, an applicant and advocate for cannabis delivery in Massachusetts, feels a lawsuit filed against the Cannabis Control Commission over its new delivery regulations is “a direct attack on equity.”
“I’m at a loss for words,” Fevry said. “It’s just an attack on equity. There’s not really any other way to perceive it.”
The Commonwealth Dispensary Association has filed a civil lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court, arguing that new regulations from the state Cannabis Control Commission allowing for the home delivery of cannabis, limited to equity applicants for three years, violate state laws.
Earlier this month, regulations became official, including a delivery operator license that allows for the wholesale purchase of cannabis to be warehoused and then sold and delivered. There’s also a courier license, which allows equity applicants to partner with retailers to deliver directly to consumers. Couriers can charge fees but cannot sell, process, store or repackage goods.
Both license types are exclusive to members of the state’s social equity or economic empowerment programs for the first three years. The courier license application has been available since last year and the delivery operator application is still in the works.
The CDA argues that allowing home delivery of cannabis products to only equity applicants for the first three years violates the commission’s statute, G.L. c. 94G, which mandates that retailers will be allowed to deliver.
“Because the Commission’s new delivery regulations are in direct contravention of the Commission’s enabling statute in allowing delivery but not by licensed Marijuana Retailers under their existing retail licenses, they cannot stand,” the lawsuit reads.
Fevry, the president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery and co-founder of delivery applicant Your Green Package, said he now questions the values of dispensaries that are part of the CDA.
“You can’t reasonably say I want delivery companies to be sharecroppers to retailers,” said Fevry, who’s business partner and fiancee, Dharry Pauyo, has social equity status. “Delivery companies should have the opportunity to create their own successful business. The whole business model doesn’t rely on the retailers.”
The lawsuit also argues that the new regulations should not have been promulgated. The CDA contended that the law requires three lawfully seated commissioners and noted that Shaleen Title was serving on the commission as a holdover. Her seat had expired and a new commissioner had not yet been appointed. A seat held by former commissioner Kay Doyle had not been filled. Former commissioner Britte McBride was still in her seat but had already announced her plans to step down.
The CDA is seeking a declaration that the delivery regulations are unlawful and void because they conflict with Chapter 94G; a declaration that the delivery regulations are unlawful and void because they were not validly promulgated; an award of the CDA’s costs, expenses and reasonable attorney’s fees and other relief.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Association for Delivery said it believes the CDA lawsuit misconstrues the statutory authority and intent of Chapter 94G.
“MCAD calls on the CDA to drop this suit and to cease enabling industry players who aim to use their capital advantage to exploit and exclude social equity applicants, and prevent the CCC from fulfilling the social justice component of the ballot initiative which the residents of the Commonwealth passed in 2016,” read a statement from the group.
Kobie Evans, the co-owner of Pure Oasis, a retailer in Boston and the first economic empowerment applicant to open in the state, said he put a focus on supporting the push for delivery even though Pure Oasis does not intend to deliver.
“As the state’s first economic empowerment applicant to get a license, I think we were more concerned about doing everything we could to help delivery, where delivery was kind of the first frontier of opportunity for equity applicants,” Evans said.
Pure Oasis had been a member of the CDA. Evans said the company left the association in late October.
“Talking to other equity applicants, and they were looking for guidance, and they wanted support around the CCC to make sure that voices were being heard,” Evans said, “it was just a matter of not having a lot of time to be an activist and realizing that our time needed to be spent supporting delivery.” Evans said it was disheartening to hear about the lawsuit.
“We live in a world where there’s room for everyone,” he said. “There’s room for equity applicants, big businesses and local entrepreneurs and there’s enough to go around.”
Massachusetts was the first state to introduce a social equity program. Despite the program, equity applicants still struggle to obtain the funding to get their businesses started.
“I don’t think the CDA as a whole is anti-equity,” Evans said. “I think the momentum of the organization is shifting one way and kind of just pulled everyone with it.”
The CDA said in a statement that the CCC overstepped its authority and disregarded state law. The organization said it supports social equity and economic empowerment applicants and their participation in the industry, including a period of exclusivity for the courier license.
“The CDA and its members are proud of the organization’s track record in meaningfully supporting a more equitable industry from co-founding the first-in-the-nation jail-to-jobs higher education program to supporting its members in launching accelerator and entrepreneurship programs for SE and EE businesses across the Commonwealth,” read a statement.
Evans said he thinks this is a teachable moment and that there is opportunity to coalesce around equity.
“The landscape of cannabis in Massachusetts will change and there will be more minority operators like Pure Oasis,” Evans said, “there will be opportunities for organizations like the CDA to represent a larger part of the industry and with that, there will probably more diversity and more opportunities to create policy that has a direct impact on equity applicants.”
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