Nearly five months after creating a widely celebrated new format for adult use delivery in the Commonwealth, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has released an online application for the new Delivery Operator license type.
That release came a few days ahead of schedule for the Agency, as Executive Director Shawn Collins told Commissioners last month the application would be released by June 1st.
Five applicants seeking the new license type, including three Black-owned Delivery Operators, have already been given the local Host Community Agreements needed to begin the licensing process, and were waiting anxiously for the state level application to be made available.
One of those applicants is Devin Alexander, the Vice President of the Massachusetts Cannabis Association For Delivery (MCAD) and CEO of Middleborough Delivery Operator Rolling Releaf. After hearing the news Thursday evening, Alexander was ecstatic;
"It's been a long time coming, myself and countless other activists in the community have worked very hard to get to this point. It has been 1 whole year since the original Delivery model has been released and now the more attractive Marijuana Delivery Operator model is a reality. We still have a ways to go in the process but just knowing we can start the process now is very exciting and I look forward to the Positive Impact this license type will have on the Massachusetts' Social Equity Community and Cannabis Industry as a whole."
Aaron Goines, Acting President of MCAD and co-owner, alongside Janelle Goines, of Wareham Delivery Operator The Emerald Turtle said;
"Congrats to every SE, EE and grassroots member that made this moment happen.
All of this happened in the face of massive corporate marijuana aggression that:
1. dragged out final regulation vote after final regulation vote.
2. Poisoned the well of every municipality with false statements against the Delivery Operator License.
3. A lawsuit that sought to strike the Delivery Operator License from existence and the total undermining of the Social Equity program.
Against all odds, we prevailed."
It its overview of the license type on the application portal, the Commission explains;
"[A] Marijuana Delivery Operator Licensee means an entity licensed to purchase at Wholesale and Warehouse Finished Marijuana Products acquired from a Marijuana Cultivator, Marijuana Product Manufacturer, Microbusiness or Craft Marijuana Cooperative, and White Label, sell and deliver Finished Marijuana Products, Marijuana Accessories and Marijuana Branded Goods directly to Consumers. The entity is not authorized to Repackage Marijuana or Marijuana Products or operate a storefront under this license."
Further, the Agency explains to prospective applicants; "[p]lease note that Marijuana Delivery Operator Licenses are limited on an exclusive basis to businesses controlled by and with majority ownership comprised of Economic Empowerment Priority Applicants or Social Equity Program Participants for a period of 36 months from the date the first Marijuana Delivery Operator Licensee receives a notice to commence operations. This exclusivity period may be extended by the Commission pursuant to a vote."
That Delivery Operator format, including that at-minimum 3 year period during which only participants in the state's Social Equity or Economic Empowerment programs may seek the license, was created in the summer of 2020 following a contentious series of public hearings in front of the state's Cannabis Control Commission. At the time, grassroots equity advocates (including the newly formed Massachusetts Cannabis Association For Delivery) fought toe to toe with the wealthiest companies in the entire state and came out victorious, having created the new license type despite a flurry of last minute objections from those wealthy brick and mortar retail operators.
Prior to that change of heart, the Commission had envisioned a cannabis courier license that would have limited equity companies to serving as only Uber-eats style couriers for existing brick and mortar operations.
The Delivery Operator license type, on the other hand, will allow equity delivery companies to own their own warehouse and vault, buy products from other manufacturers and cultivators, and deliver those products directly to consumers following an online sale.
Not everyone was a fan though, as the same corporate interests who attempted to stop the roll out of the new Delivery Operator license in front of the CCC then went on to file a lawsuit, in January of 2021, seeking to have both the three year equity period and the entire delivery operator license ruled illegal.
Before the case could even reach an initial stage, however, advocates lead a successful boycott effort and the suit was dropped (clearing the way for both the license type, and the delivery priority period, to go forward).
Speaking to me in a further interview after the license announcement Aaron Goines said the moment was one of victory against corporate operators, who had sought to destroy the license type at every turn;
"The roll out of the Delivery Operator application is a huge sigh of relief. This has been a long, hard fought battle, dating back basically to this time last year. It all started with just the courier license, but we fought hard collectively as a grassroots movement and we successfully created this Delivery Operator license, and the expanded equity priority period, as a community.”
Goines went on, "[t]his license...gives social equity and economic empowerment applicants a true shot at an opportunity to create a fully functional, sustainable, and viable business just like any other license type available to general applications."
Goines and his wife Janelle were just approved for a Delivery Operator Host Community Agreement in Wareham earlier this week (making them the third Black-owned delivery operator with an HCA in the state, and the 5th such delivery operator company with an HCA in total).
The rate of those HCA approvals, Goines said, gives him hope that the playing field will begin to level in Massachusetts;
"I think that the delivery operator license will be the ultimate equalizer in this state. It is an opportunity for the smaller and independent operators, cultivators and manufacturers to display their products to consumers without being subjected to predatory lending terms, contractual agreements or otherwise."
Goines also expressed his thanks to the state's regulatory body, sometimes a target of consternation from the grassroots community, and expressed his optimism for the future;
"All of the Board members of MCAD (Aaron Goines, Janelle Goines, Devin Alexander and Morriss Partee), also, truly thank all of the Commissioners (both present and past) for their openness and willingness to fully embrace a new license type that will truly bring independence to those social equity and economic participants throughout the state who apply for these licenses. This is a great a day, a historic day, and we can all be proud of what has been accomplished."
The lessons from Massachusetts, says Goines, will only continue to serve as an exemplar for other states seeking to create their own strong equity-ownership-in-licensing structures, "[t]his is a monumental event for not only Massachusetts, but also the entire country as other states look to our state for guidance as to how they will create meaningful pathways to ownership and market participation for equity companies."
"It is truly impressive, in the face of a goliath with the sole purpose of totally getting rid of this Delivery Operator license and, at the same time, dismantling the priority period, what an authentic and well meaning group of people can accomplish."
First published: 6:24PM Eastern Daylight Time, 5/27/2021
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