5 States with *Actually Equitable* Cannabis Social Equity Policy Initiatives

By |Published On: June 10, 2021|4.8 min read|


by Allison Holmes

I started this project looking to make a list of “The Top Equity Bills and Initiatives” being implemented around the country and quickly discovered that claims of equitable legislation live on a pretty broad spectrum. So what is it and how do we ensure it through policy? Is just expungement enough to be considered equitable? I ended up writing this piece on What Defines Social Equity where we did a deeper dive into this issue. Now that we know what equitable policy can really look like, I compiled this list of 5 states who have initiatives in motion that are actually equitable. It is essential that we rally support around these measures! Check it out and TAKE ACTION!


Medical Marijuana has been legal in Connecticut since 2012. This year there are two bills that would legalize an adult use market, SB888 and HB6377. SB888 was proposed by the governor, but the bill has been highly criticized by the community and equity activists. In response, HB6377 has been introduced by Connecticut United for Reform and Equity (CURE) and Chairwoman Robyn Porter in order to provide a more equitable approach to legalizing adult use cannabis in the state.

HB6377 Sponsored by Robyn Porter and CURE

  • “Pipeline to Prosperity” – funding for Modern Cannabis Workforce Development
    • Early registration for equity license applicants
    • Funding for low-interest business loans
  • Labor peace agreements – choice of joining a union for all cannabis workers
  • Equity Task Force – to assess the most effective strategies for community reinvestment
  • Partners with the University of Connecticut for ongoing business support for equity applicants


The state of Massachusetts has had a legalized market for adult use cannabis since the end 2016 and has been making strides toward equitability ever since. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission created the Social Equity Program in 2018 to provide technical assistance and education for those most impacted by the War on Drugs. The commission also implemented the Economic Empowerment Priority Program, which gave licensing priority to Social Equity applicants. Currently, there is a bill in the state house (HB 178) that seeks to reallocate cannabis tax revenue into the Cannabis Community Empowerment Fund to provide direct access to capital for Social Equity Applicants.

 Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission

  • Social Equity Program  
    • provides free technical assistance and education for its participants
  • Economic Empowerment Priority Program 
    • gives priority to eligible applicants
    • provides financial support in the form of fee reduction and waivers
  • House Bill 178 Equitable Empowerment of Minority-Owned Business…
    • Cannabis Community Empowerment Fund – offers low or no interest loans to eligible businesses including Social Equity and Economic Empowerment Applicants
    • Requires the state transfer $10 million from the Marijuana Regulation Fund to the Cannabis Community Empowerment Fund by Oct. 1, 2021

New York

New York just enacted an adult use cannabis law which will be fully realized in the next year or so. The state gained national attention for including social equity in its original legislation. As New York moves toward the implementation of cannabis legalization, here’s what social equity efforts we should expect to see:

Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

  • Set a goal to award 50% of licenses to social equity applicants
  • Financial support to social equity applicants 
    • Low or no interest loans, fee reductions or waivers
  • Professional assistance provided in application process, and continued support into business operation
  • 40% of tax revenues generated by adult use sales to be reinvested into communities impacted by the War on Drugs


The state of Oregon has had a legalized market for adult use cannabis since 2015. Activists have been working to legislate equity into the market ever since. Currently there is a bill in the house (HB 3112) that would provide a structure for social equity to be implemented.

HB 3112 The Oregon Equity Investment Act

  • Calls for cannabis tax revenues to provide for direct investment in the form of home ownership, health care, and expungement of marijuana related charges
  • Creation of equity licenses to support BIPOC cannabis business owners
    • On-premises consumption for equity licensees only, for ten years
    • Delivery licenses for equity licensees only, for ten years
    • Capital and technical support
    • License fee reductions
    • Faster processing of equity licenses

California’s Decentralized Approach

The California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018 allocated funding for cities and counties to develop and operate cannabis equity programs. Within California there are many different approaches being taken, each one tailored to fit the context of the specific community. Oakland has been a local stand out in implementing a functional social equity process. 

Oakland Cannabis Equity Program

  • Equity Permit Program
  • Incubator program – general applicants providing equity applicants with funding and property, incubator receives permitting priority over other general applicants
    • “By reserving permits for equity applicants and incentivizing general applicants to support equity program participants, Oakland’s program has succeeded in increasing the number of cannabis entrepreneurs of color in the city.” (Social Equity Legislation in Cannabis: A National Study…)
  • Workforce Development Grant Program – designed to recruit, train, and employ individuals impacted by the drug war
  • Collaboration with Supernova Women – aims to provide avenues for individuals to benefit from the cannabis industry outside of business ownership

If your state is not on the list, find out what they’re doing to support an equitable cannabis industry. Contact your representative to see how you can get involved or contact us and we’ll find out who is actually working on the ground on these issues!

Join us at the Pride and Equity Tokeativity Social on Saturday, June 12 from 2-6pm PST for a “digital beehive of activities” including discussions and panels on important topics like Social Equity in Cannabis – and if you aren’t able to make it, tune into our video library in the weeks afterwards to catch some of the recordings.



About the Author: Allison Holmes

Allison Holmes, an edge-pusher from the midwest. She graduated with her degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska Omaha and came to Portland, Oregon with a desire to help people and a commitment to dismantling racist drug laws.

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