Lawmakers, city leaders pushing to boost involvement of minority entrepreneurs in Boston’s cannabis industry

BOSTON — Last year, the Boston City Council voted to create an independent cannabis board to oversee the local approval of marijuana businesses.

The goal, ultimately, was to boost involvement for minority entrepreneurs within the industry - specifically groups that had been marginalized and affected by the war on drugs for decades.

On Tuesday night, many of these entrepreneurs went to Roxbury to meet and hear from city leaders on how they can get involved in the growing industry, filling the room to capacity.

People waited outside the Black Market in Nubian Square to hear about the new opportunities available to them.

“There’s supposed to be some social benefit of this and right now, there’s still only a minimal, limited amount of implementation of opportunity for my community, who has been so impacted by this,” said Iaura Younger, of Roxbury.

Boston City Council President Kim Janey hosted the town hall meeting along with marijuana industry experts to show hopeful entrepreneurs what’s available to them.

“We’ve heard from so many residents and neighbors who have questions and concerns even though the law was passed four years ago almost,” said Janey.

In November, Janey had proposed a bill that would require half of Boston’s marijuana licenses to go to companies from communities affected by the war on drugs, which has caused the most damage primarily to black and Latino populations.

“It’s so important that we are aggressive in getting this thing started and not be stopped by fears and disinformation,” said Younger.

The bill also creates Massachusetts’ first government fund to support minority-owned marijuana companies. Long-term Roxbury residents like Younger say this kind of discussion was a long time coming.

“I want to know where we can meet community concerns but give every person an opportunity to be in this industry on the ground floor – millions of dollars are being made in Massachusetts and we need to have a fair chance at opportunity in that,” said Younger.

Massachusetts if the first state that isn’t barring former convicted felons from operating recreational pot shops, something residents say is the kind of opportunity that helps people once hurt by the system succeed in the industry.