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Marijuana advocates press commission for pot cafes, help for medical patients

Andrew Mutty, cofounder of Beanton Greentown, a marijuana cultivation and clothing company, held up a T-shirt as he spoke before the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission in a so-called listening session in Boston Wednesday.
Andrew Mutty, cofounder of Beanton Greentown, a marijuana cultivation and clothing company, held up a T-shirt as he spoke before the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission in a so-called listening session in Boston Wednesday.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

The specifics varied, but the appeals to state cannabis regulators shared a common theme: Don’t forget the little guy.

At a crowded meeting in an office in downtown Boston Wednesday, dozens of advocates, business people, and medical patients testified for five minutes each during a “listening session” organized by the state Cannabis Control Commission. The agency is pondering a series of revisions and additions to its regulations, which govern the medical and recreational marijuana industries in Massachusetts.

Among the most requested changes: help low-income medical marijuana patients. Give small businesses an advantage. Pressure companies to do more for people with pot convictions.

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“As a small business, how do we have that opportunity to get a foot in the door a little faster than these big mega-corporations who can just spend tons of money and wait in line and not have a problem?” said Andrew Mutty, cofounder of Beantown Greentown, who displayed a shirt that read “MORE WEED LESS GREED.”

But one speaker had a different angle: consider the bigger guy’s ability to deliver.

Sydney Snow, community affairs manager for Eaze, a San Francisco-based pot delivery app and website with reportedly $65 million in venture capital, urged the commission to allow home delivery of pot and create “an ecosystem that can professionally and legally supply” the high demand.

Snow stopped short of arguing against the commission’s prior stance — and an advisory panel’s recent recommendation — that called for granting delivery licenses exclusively to small businesses and people harmed by the criminalization of marijuana. But she clearly sought to show that Eaze should be allowed in.

“Artificially limiting delivery options will not only restrict much-needed access to the legal marketplace,” Snow said, “but it will also set retailers up for failure by putting them in an impossible position to meet outsized demand.”

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Many speakers implored the commission to work harder to meet its legal mandate of enabling full participation in the booming industry by those harmed by the war on drugs. Social justice advocates said licenses for pot cafes and delivery services, which require lower startup capital than other types of businesses, should be given only to small businesses and “equity applicants,” or people from communities with high rates of marijuana arrests.

“Equity in the cannabis industry is in a state of emergency,” said Joe Gilmore, of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council. “Intentionally progressive actions must be taken immediately.”

Gilmore said the state should require businesses to donate to the state’s social equity program, which is aimed at helping historically disenfranchised groups thrive in the industry.

Several medical marijuana patients urged the commission to scrap the $50 annual fee patients pay to renew their card.

“It’s a constant battle for patients,” said Nichole Snow, executive director of Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance. Snow added that MassHealth, the state’s low-income health insurer, should cover the price of the doctors’ visits required to receive a state medical card.

Anthony Crescenzi, a patient, said he was frustrated that his dispensary has told him that, because of a shortage, he can only buy certain pot strains as a recreational customer, which adds a 20 percent tax that patients don’t pay.

“I’m appalled that a facility would take my medication and sell it to a recreational user,” Crescenzi said. “The shortage is unreal and is becoming more frequent.”

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Frank Shaw, 66, a patient with AIDS living in Ipswich, urged the commission to allow pot cafes to open.

“People like me who live in subsidized housing need a safe place to consume our cannabis products.”. . . without the fear of being ticketed or evicted,” Shaw said.

Another speaker urged regulators to allow people, like himself, who turned their lives around after being in prison, to work in the industry.

“Convicted felons should not be left behind while the whole world enjoys a billion-dollar green rush,” said Harry Jean-Jacques. “We need a way to break the cycle of recidivism.”

Once the commission drafts proposed rules, it will hold public hearings again before voting in June.


Naomi Martin can be reached at naomi.martin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NaomiMartin.