A number of amendments were added to the legislation over the course of a sprawling multi-hour debate in the Senate Chamber, including language expanding employment eligibility for those with prior felonies that Conception highlighted during the CCC's public meeting on Thursday;
An amendment (#1) from Senator Adam Gomez expanding expungement for prior offenses in the Commonwealth passed (while the amendment does not provide for automatic expungement, it does allow for a more streamlined process for those expungements to take place).
A further amendment (#2) from Senator Gomez passed, adding language that will require a yearly public report related to the social equity loan fund (ensuring that the funds being lent/granted are actually going to individuals or communities harmed by drug war enforcement).
An amendment from Senator Will Brownsberger (#4) that does two important things also passed; firstly, the bill removes a prior prohibition on individuals with a felony conviction from applying for a license before the CCC. Further, the amendment removes prior language preventing someone from convicted of certain felonies from working for such an establishment.
Amendment #6, from Senator Jehlen, also passed; this amendment clarifies that any license type (so long as the majority of ownership and control reside with an SE or EE applicant) is eligible to apply to receive funds from the social equity loan/grant fund.
Amendments #7 and #8, from Senator Michael Moore, were adopted; these amendments put a firm time limit on the length of HCA negotiations while also allowing communities to waive HCA's entirely if they so wish to do so.
Amendment #15, from Senator John Velis, was adopted; this amendment requires the CCC to draft and promulgate a model HCA that cities and towns may use when negotiating such agreements with prospective applicants.
A number of amendments were also withdrawn before being considered (including attempts to revive a long-since rejected potency cap on products in the state and an attempt to delay social consumption until such time as more accurate blood tests are created).
The legislation, now that it has passed the Upper Chamber, will move over to the House of Representatives (wherein a similar vote and amendment process will take place).
If the amendments in the House are exactly the same as those passed in the Senate, the bill will go directly to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature (that situation, however, is highly unlikely).
More realistically, The House and Senate will end up passing different versions of the legislation. That would, in turn, trigger a process referred to as a compromise committee wherein lawmakers from each body would meet to work out a version of the bill acceptable to both chambers.
Only at that point would the bill be sent back to the Senate and House again, for yet another vote, before being forwarded to the Governor. If the legislation passes both chambers by a margin greater than 2/3's (a "veto-proof majority") as expected, a signature from the corner office is almost guaranteed.
Because the current legislative session is scheduled to end in July of this year, and because this bill has the support of both House and Senate leadership, I expect the next steps in this process to occur quite quickly over the coming weeks (with a final vote taking place sometime in late May or early June).
Kizzy Key, an equity applicant from Boston interested in entering the industry, said the bill inspires hope that her dream of owning a company could one day become a reality; "As a social equity participant here in Massachusetts I would like to see this bill pass. That will give me hope of opening my very own cannabis business without worries of predatory lenders, long awaited build out or missed opportunities."
"Funding has been the number one issue holding a lot of us back," said Key. "This bill will help us get to the front line."
View the full text of all amendments, and see the full text of the bill itself, at the following link: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S2801/Amendments/Senate
The actions taken on all amendments are also listed in the screenshots below;