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State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz wants money for equity in marijuana industry

Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz spoke at the State House in April.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

A little late-breaking news just before we went to press Friday: Massachusetts Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz has proposed amendments to the state’s pending budget that would create a “Cannabis Social Equity Loan Trust Fund.”

...Oh, you don’t what that it is? Basically, Chang-Díaz wants to take a portion of state marijuana tax revenues (plus some private donations) and create a bucket of money to help entrepreneurs and companies in the Cannabis Control Commission’s social equity and economic empowerment programs get their pot startups off the ground.

The fund’s no-interest loans would be administered by the state’s secretary of housing and economic development. A one-time payment of $1 million in public funds would jump-start work on the project.

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The proposal is an attempt to get right to the heart of why disenfranchised entrepreneurs and other small operators are struggling to get marijuana business licenses in Massachusetts: participants in the equity and empowerment programs consistently say a lack of access to capital is their main obstacle to success.

Chang-Díaz took over as chairwoman of the Legislature’s marijuana policy committee earlier this year, and pledged a strong focus on equity issues.

It’s unclear how much political support her proposal will receive — and there are dozens of other marijuana-related bills and amendments jostling for attention.

Still, the measure reflects the increasing feeling among progressive legislators and advocates that the state needs to put far more muscle behind the promises of equity in its cannabis laws. Recent revelations that big pot companies are exploiting the funding vacuum to hawk potentially predatory contracts to cash-starved entrepreneurs is only further fuel.

We’ll keep you posted.


Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.