For inclusion, empowerment, and opportunity.

Cambridge City Councilor Denise Simmons’ Slave Amendment Seeks to Continue Cycle of System Racism


Media contacts on behalf of Real Action for Cannabis Equity (R.A.C.E.):

Catharine Montgomery, 617-997-5097,

Despite Pushback from Simmons, Cambridge Residents Look to Cannabis Industry as Launchpad for Reparations and Years of Disenfranchisement

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Cambridge City Council, as early as September 9, will vote on the fate of cannabis permits for its business owners and residents. They will consider an unlawful amendment proposed by Councilor Denise Simmons, in conjunction with the upper echelons of Cambridge and big-money corporate cannabis, which excludes Economic Empowerment (EE) from cannabis licenses, instead continuing the decades-long practice of disenfranchisement rather than offering the reparations they deserve after decades of being disproportionately discriminated against for marijuana use.A group of EE applicants have joined together to send a clear message to Councilor Simmons: Their voice belongs in this process, and they want true equity, not a Jim Crow bribe.

There is a significant wealth disparity among white versus African American residents, which will be perpetuated by the top 1 Percent – owners of Registered Medical Dispensaries (RMDs) – will receive the benefits of cannabis permits co-opting the new industry before EE entrepreneurs in the community are given the same opportunity.

The state and the City have both committed to meet their responsibility for Economic Empowerment (EE) opportunities for entrepreneurs. The Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has clearly identified guidelines for cities and towns to establish this new industry within a framework that promotes economic empowerment in communities disproportionately impacted by high rates of arrest and incarceration for drug offenses – known as Economic Empowerment (EE) applicants. The example they cite is a moratorium; that is, to give EE applicants exclusive first shot at applying for one of a very limited number of cannabis licenses within the City, while already-established and corporate-owned medical facilities must wait for a time period – 6 months to two years, before they can flood the adult-use cannabis market.

Councilor Simmons and RMD venture capitalists assume that the problem for EE is start-up capital; ignoring that the lack of black wealth is the result of systemic racism. The facts:

  • Black unemployment is consistently disproportionately higher than the white jobless rate.
  • Educational attainment required for employment in our high tech, information-based economy eludes our CRLS graduates, 71% of whom do not graduate from college in 6 years.
  • In Massachusetts, Blacks are 3.73 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Felony convictions make one virtually unemployable.

Without input from the EE applicant pool, or the minority community, Councilor Simmons has crafted a proposal built on the assumption that what the black community needs is money or start-up capital, as opposed to actual equity measures, as recommended by the state. This assumption is not only incorrect, but it also fails to acknowledge that the lack of black wealth is the result of generations of systemic racism.Councilor Simmons’ amendment proposes the creation of a $5 million fund — called the Cambridge Cannabis Accelerator and Incubator Fund — to provide financial and operational support to EE applicants.

A separate amendment written by Councilors Quinton Zondervan and Sumbul Siddiqui instead proposes a 2-year moratorium as recommended by the Cannabis Control Commission. Councilor Simmons subsequently drafted what she coined as the “Simmons/Zondervan Compromise” without the authorization or support of Councilor Zondervan, who demanded that his name be removed from the faulty compromise proposal.

The actual estimated cost to start up an adult-use cannabis operation (2000 sq. ft.) is approximately $2.1 million, and does not include the 6 months of inventory required prior to opening. The proposal from Councilor Simmons would provide a cash infusion no greater than $500,000 — barely a quarter of actual costs.In addition, there are significant legal questions related to Councilor Simmons’ proposal. One such concern cites a Department of Revenue (DOR) opinion that clearly states all cannabis-related revenue must be deposited into the municipality’s General Fund and may not be designated for a specific purpose like the Cambridge Cannabis Accelerator and Incubator Fund proposed by Councilor Simmons.

“EE applicants seeking capital are caught in the crosshairs of inter-institutional practices forged to keep them at the economic margins of society,” said [NAME]. “The stabilization of that community requires members to have an economic ladder of opportunity that is cemented in proprietorship—ownership of and agency over their economic fortune, not philanthropy.”

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The mission of the R.A.C.E. coalition and movement is to unite, empower, and create maximum opportunity for communities and people of color within the emerging cannabis industry with a specific aim to raise up the voices of cannabis business owners and workers of color. 

Founded and led by entrepreneurs and business owners of color within the cannabis industry, R.A.C.E. is an aspiring 501(c)(6) seeking to advance the interests of our community and of industrial equity through economic liberation, self-determination, business ownership, the rejection of tokenism, and through the promotion of community empowerment, skills-building, and political advocacy. 

Whereas prohibition was weaponized against communities and people of color to stoke criminalization, brutality and incarceration, R.A.C.E. seeks and promotes avenues by which cannabis legalization may lead to the economic empowerment for entrepreneurs, workers, and communities of color in an era of rampant wage inequity, racial inequality, and prejudicial treatment by major institutions against entrepreneurs and workers of color.