Massachusetts Senate weighs no-interest loans for marijuana businesses

Massachusetts Senate weighs no-interest loans for marijuana businesses

BOSTON — One of the biggest problems small entrepreneurs have had starting marijuana businesses in Massachusetts is a lack of money. Starting a business is expensive, and traditional loans and financing options are generally not available because of federal prohibition.

State senators will decide this week whether to take the first step toward creating a no-interest loan fund managed by the state to help marijuana entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

The fund would be available only to social equity and economic empowerment applicants, designations given by the Cannabis Control Commission to applicants from communities that were disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, introduced the amendment to be considered during the Senate’s fiscal 2020 budget debate this week.

Chang-Diaz said the top barrier social equity applicants have faced is access to capital. She said lawmakers wrote into the state’s marijuana law the need to “make sure it’s an industry that benefits Massachusetts residents, not just multi-state corporations” and that benefits communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs.

“I’m looking for feedback from the CCC and the field, if we’re not hitting the mark, what else needs to happen?” Chang-Diaz said.

The Cannabis Control Commission began discussing the idea of a state-run loan fund as part of a larger discussion in February about how to improve access to the industry for social equity applicants. So far, most marijuana licenses have been granted to larger companies, with little diversity.

Of nearly 350 license applications submitted as of early April, only five had priority status as “economic empowerment” applicants. Over 300 of the applicants did not identify as a “disadvantaged business enterprise,” which includes categories like women and minority-owned businesses.

Published at Tue, 21 May 2019 20:36:15 +0000

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