** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE **Media contacts on behalf of Real Action for Cannabis Equity (R.A.C.E.):Catharine Montgomery, 617-997-5097, Catharine@617MediaGroup.com
CAMBRIDGE, MA – On Monday, the Cambridge City Council voted to confirm a measure seeking to establish equity in the new burgeoning cannabis industry. The measure proposes a two-year moratorium during which the city will exclusively consider applications from Economic Empowerment (EE) entrepreneurs, as defined by the state. City Councilors Sumbul Siddiqui and Quinton Zondervan spearheaded the moratorium measure that received a 7 to 2 vote by the Council.In addition to the moratorium, the measure includes an annual business permitting process to establish regular checks to ensure equity is maintained and ongoing as businesses grow. The City of Cambridge previously introduced language in zoning regulations related to the cannabis industry allowing only EE applicants within 1,800 feet of another recreational cannabis retail establishment, thereby ensuring that EE applicants could be considered for prime, attractive locations in Cambridge.
Also in a 7-2 vote, last week the Council voted to support the measure proposed by Councilors Siddiqui and Zondervan. At that time, the measure received support and affirmative votes from Mayor Marc McGovern and Councilors Jan Devereux, Dennis J. Carlone, Alanna M. Mallon and Craig A. Kelley.”Every step of the way, the goal has been to set the bar for those who were disproportionately harmed from a faux ‘War on Drugs,’ and this measure is a great equalizer not just for Cambridge, but for the precedent it sets with the entire cannabis industry,” said Taba Moses, president of Green Soul Organics and R.A.C.E. co-founder. “Just look at the numbers. This has been a long history designed to punish and enslave people of color within our criminal justice system. This legislation from Councilors Siddiqui and Zondervan not only sets the stage for an equitable future industry, but also shows that if you believe in yourself and are willing to stand for more than what money can buy you, anything is possible. I hope this sends a message to people that the days where big business can buy the black community is ending.”“This ordinance will give Economic Empowerment applicants a chance to open in Cambridge and will begin to address some of the racial inequities perpetuated by cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs,” said Councilor Zondervan. “I am hopeful that this law will uplift black and brown entrepreneurs and provide opportunities for them to make a living and build some wealth in this emerging industry. I hope this can be a model for the state and indeed for the nation in how to move forward with equitable legalization of adult-use cannabis.”
“When Commissioner Title first came to speak before the Economic Development Committee in spring 2018, she was clear about where the State left room for cities to interpret the law. It was also clear that other cities would likely be looking to Cambridge as a progressive model for the role city governments can have in promoting equity in the cannabis industry locally,” said Councilor Siddiqui. “From that point on, it really became about figuring out what the options were for us as a City: what were the limits of what we could do? It’s been quite the journey since. I’m grateful to the many activists and advocacy organizations who consistently showed up in support and helped move our process along productively, and to my colleagues for coming together around a policy we hope will support economic empowerment applicants in establishing themselves in the market here in Cambridge. This country’s racist War on Drugs disproportionally criminalized black and brown folks, and it’s our collective responsibility to do the best we can to fight for policies that provide them equitable access to the wealth and opportunity inherent in this emergent, billion-dollar cannabis industry. There’s still much more to be done.”
“The City of Cambridge and its leaders have shown the nation, once again, that Cambridge has the courage to lead the cannabis industry with its commitment to economic and social justice. This historic vote proves that the Cambridge City Council understands that economic justice and equity must be legislated in order to achieve true and meaningful equity within the new emerging cannabis industry,” said Richard Harding, an equity advocate and R.A.C.E. co-founder who supported the historic Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, which helped legalize recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative passed by voters on November 6, 2016. Harding is a former Cambridge School Committee member and the President of the Green Soul Foundation, which is a charter member of the R.A.C.E. coalition. Harding said, “Leadership takes courage, and the Council led by Councilors Siddiqui and Zondervan, have taken a courageous vote that will ensure that marginalized communities that have been decimated by the fake war on drugs will have an opportunity benefit from the emerging cannabis industry.”
A Cannabis Control Commission report from earlier this year revealed significant racial disparities in cannabis policing in Massachusetts. Those incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses face steep challenges as they look for jobs, find housing, and work to rebuild their lives post-release. The long-lasting impacts of the so-called War on Drugs still reverberate in communities of color today. Additional reports indicate that only two of 184 marijuana business licenses in Massachusetts are owned by people in state equity programs. These reports precipitated the launch of Real Action for Cannabis Equity, or R.A.C.E., formed to highlight the disconnect of social equity and illustrate the importance of legislating these equity measures.
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 – defined 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 a given municipality, while already-established and corporate-owned medical facilities must wait for a time period before they can flood the adult-use cannabis market.
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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.