Today the New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN) made the decision to ban all remaining members of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association (CDA) from attending any NECANN-related events going forward.
Sources with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed that NECANN leadership began the process of cancelling all future reservations held by CDA companies at any NECANN event.
Today's decision comes on the heels of January's initial nation-wide boycott of the beleaguered group of brick and mortar dispensary owners following a lawsuit that was filed in January of this year by the CDA seeking to invalidate equity delivery rules many local advocates and equity operators fought for months to create.
That anti-equity delivery lawsuit was quickly dropped -- after 12 of the groups members, amounting to over $140,000 in annual dues, had resigned in protest -- but the boycott continued on.
CDA companies, some advocates were quick to point out, had a history of regulatory and legislative lobbying that sought to undermine equity and a fair market structure in order to protect the profits of a small group of large corporate operators.
Said Massachusetts grassroots cannabis activist Ominique Garner, "The CDA and its members have a reputation that speaks for itself and I am glad to see NECANN taking a stand to support the little guy. For example, that anti-equity delivery lawsuit the CDA filed; they saw there was a way in for small equity companies, and instead of supporting it they took it as a threat and did everything in their power to stop it."
"Then, as soon as that lawsuit was dropped in January" Garner went on, "we see that the Hannah Kane Task Force Bill was refiled again this year. Is that a surprise? I don't think so at this point."
Pointing to the CDA's lobbying tactics, including their decision to support that "drug war" task force bill in 2019, organizers began championing a laundry list of local festivals and companies that began to sign on to the boycott over the past 3 months.
That task force proposal, in particular, drew the ire of many; that any cannabis company would condone a proposal to bring together the State Police and Tax Officials with the aim of targeting unregulated operators, claimed advocates, shows a seeming disregard for the very foundations upon which the adult use cannabis law was built (and despite the fact that such targeting would -- based on the very data that resulted in the equity provisions of the 2016 law that legalized adult use cannabis in the Commonwealth to begin with-- inevitably result in disproportionate enforcement in already vulnerable communities).
Said Garner, "The CDA's support of the task force bill is, frankly, tiring; these large companies who have the money to pay for lobbyists to fight against equity, by trying to involve the police to protect their profits, is just disgusting; this opportunity was supposed to be for people, in particular Black people, who were harmed by the drug war and now they want to continue locking people up just to make money? Its disgusting."
"And what really upsets me", Garner explains, "is when small local companies start saying behind closed doors that they support the CDA task force bill as well, because that means they support using the drug war to lock people up to protect their profits."
Further to those concerns, one member of the CDA, Revolutionary Clinics, even went on to tell a Judge that an equity priority period created by the City of Cambridge for Host Community Agreements was "racially discriminatory", apparently against white-owned corporate medical operators.
Those serious concerns brought to light by boycott organizers, however, would have potentially otherwise gone unheard were it not for the willingness of industry leaders such as NECANN to stand on principle and uphold the boycott.
In fact, with some companies in the CDA operating in other New England states, boycotts of this nature can sometimes be as powerful a tool of information sharing as they can be a tool to impact sales.
Be it targeting a companies bottom line or otherwise these kind of boycotts, explains Connecticut grassroots activist and advocate Jason Ortiz, have the potential to shift the balance of power in the halls of liberal democracies;
“The battle between multinational corporations and grassroots advocates has become an economic war and thus we use economic weapons like boycotts when the institutions charged with protecting the public good fail to do the right thing. There are lots of ways to achieve justice, but few tactics are more effective than hitting their bottom line.”
Ortiz, himself, has seen that fight playing out first hand in his home state, as yet another New England province tumbles towards full adult use legalization.
In Connecticut, Ortiz explains, "someone" added a clause to a legalization proposal from Governor Ned Lamont that undermines the very foundation of the proposed social equity ownership licensing schema. The clause says Ortiz, changes the definition of equity applicant in such a way as to allow large operators to apply as equity applicants if they promise to hire impacted community residents who could qualify as owners. Those companies can then leverage their ownership of both traditional and equity licenses to create a functional market oligopoly.
"Its a Slave Master Clause that would allow multiple billion dollars companies to apply for and win licenses set aside for impacted communities, and then siphon resources as if the company itself were a person who was incarcerated. It is one of the purest forms of perversion of the foundation of justice in human history. It would be like setting aside reparations but only slave masters would receive the funds. ", Ortiz said. "It so obviously undermines the entire point of an equity ownership program. The "or" needs to be changed to "AND". We want ownership AND control."
Getting rid of that kind of clause, says Ortiz, can take the kind of lobbying and activism that is unrelenting in its pursuit of justice;
“I’d rather burn the plantation to the ground than allow such evil (lines 227-230 in SB.888) to become law on my watch.”
Be it the CDA in Massachusetts, or veiled corporate forces in other New England states; there is no question that when large organizations such as NECANN stand up on behalf of a boycott, the world listens.