Massachusetts is in the early stages of launching the first social equity cannabis work program in the nation, according to a MassLive report. The program would be designed to give minorities and others previously convicted of drug offenses a chance at working in the legal cannabis industry.

The commission currently gives priority for cannabis license applicants to those who come from areas or groups that have been overly affected by cannabis prohibition. According to Massachusetts state law, however, the Cannabis Control Commission must promote participation in the legal cannabis industry from demographics who were harmed disproportionately by cannabis prohibition.

The state is crafting its social equity program to provide training and mentoring to individuals from those same disadvantaged categories. The program has four tracks for training different types of workers for the cannabis industry: owners and entrepreneurs, management and executives, entry-level workers and the previously incarcerated, and a fourth track for people with existing professional skills that are useful in cannabis.

Candidates for the program must meet certain criteria. The program is for those with past drug convictions — or for their partners and/or children — who have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year. The program would also apply to people who have lived in a community classified as an area of “disproportionate impact” for the last five years with an income below 400% of the federal poverty level.

The rules do not specify race. However, Shekia Scott, Director of Community Outreach for the Cannabis Control Commission, said the goal is to help create a more racially diverse workforce.

“Everyone can’t be an owner. We have to think bigger about building out the full workforce and full industry.” — Shekia Scott, via MassLive

Scott said her next goal is outreach in the 29 communities classified as “disproportionately impacted,” to encourage people to apply for the program. The Cannabis Commission has allocated $300,000 for the program for this year.

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