Massachusetts House votes in favor of reforming cannabis social equity

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Lawmakers in the Massachusetts House joined their Senate counterparts in approving legislation to promote greater diversity in the state’s licensed cannabis industry.

The House voted 153-2 on Wednesday to increase minority participation in the market, establish rules for marijuana consumption lounges and strengthen oversight on the host community agreements municipalities require from cannabis businesses, the State House News Service reported.

The bill passed the state Senate last month.

A conference committee must now “reconcile any differences between the two versions” of the bills, then the Senate and House will each vote again, according to The Boston Globe.

Assuming that version passes both chambers, a final draft then will go to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker.

Rep. Dan Donahue, the House chair of the Cannabis Policy Committee, said it’s time to “revisit the initial legislation to provide clarity on the intent of legislation and to work to ensure we continue to remove barriers to entry into this unique industry for those communities who are so disproportionately harmed and impacted by the prohibition of marijuana.”

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The bill would direct 20% of the money in the Marijuana Regulation Fund – which gathers the revenue generated by the state’s cannabis application and licensing fees, excise tax and industry penalties – into a social equity fund.

The fund would help applicants get access to capital via grants and loans, including some that have no interest or are forgivable.