Green tea party? State licenses Boston’s 1st marijuana shop

BOSTON — Boston’s first retail pot shop and Massachusetts’ first minority-owned marijuana business was approved Thursday, more than a year after the first shops opened elsewhere in the state.

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday voted to give final license approval to Pure Oasis, a pot shop proposed by two local black entrepreneurs.

The approval comes more than three years after voters approved the nation’s first marijuana law aimed at encouraging black, Latinos and other people harmed by the war on drugs to participate in the new industry.

Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman called the vote “an important milestone” and wished the company luck.

Kobie Evans, a co-owner of Pure Oasis, said the shop hopes to open its doors in about a month in the city's diverse Dorchester neighborhood.

“It’s been a long, challenging journey, but it's all been worth it," he said after the vote. “We’re excited to be where we are right now, but we'd also like to see more opportunities for people like us so that its not such a challenging road for people that come after us.”

Black and Latino groups have voiced their frustration for months at the slow pace of approvals for minority-owned businesses, both in Massachusetts and nationwide.

Pure Oasis joins 118 marijuana companies that have earned a final state license following Thursday’s meeting, which included votes on dozens of other applicants.

More than 300 others have also secured conditional approvals, but only 11 of those are companies like Pure Oasis that have been certified under the state’s equity programs for minority and disadvantaged marijuana businesses, according to the commission.

Marijuana activists in Massachusetts and elsewhere have also voiced concern about the low number of minorities working in the industry at large.

Nearly 75% of Massachusetts' marijuana workforce is white, while Black and Latino people represent less than 12%, according to statistics released Thursday by the commission.

Kevin Hart, the other co-owner of Pure Oasis, believes the local industry’s demographics will improve as more pot businesses are opened in Greater Boston’s more diverse communities.

Massachusetts currently has more than 30 retail marijuana locations, but only one is in Greater Boston: New England Treatment Access, in the affluent suburb of Brookline.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has faced criticism for his city’s slow rollout of pot shops, also signed into law last year an ordinance overhauling the local process for vetting marijuana businesses.

Among other things, the new law creates the state’s first equity fund aimed at assisting minority entrepreneurs hoping to break into the industry.

Walsh tweeted Thursday that he was proud that Boston would be home to the state's first “Economic Empowerment Candidate,” and said his administration will “continue to prioritize equity, diversity and local ownership in this new industry.”

Hart, meanwhile, said Pure Oasis committed to recruiting workers from minority and disadvantaged communities.

The company, which is also proposing two other retail locations in the Boston area, has been holding job fairs in and around Dorchester, a neighborhood where more than 40% of residents are black, as it plans to hire about 30 workers for its first shop.

“It’s bittersweet. It’s a great feeling to be first, but we know that also comes with a level of responsibility,” Hart said. “It’s our responsibility to take this win we got today and make sure people of color realize they have the same opportunities.”

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