Councilor Kim Janey (Roxbury) today proposed giving minority Boston entrepreneurs a two-year head start on getting local marijuana licenses as a way to address past wrongs in the war on drugs and to help ensure at least some of the profits from the lucrative business stay local.
"For generations, the war on drugs targeted and criminalized poor communities of color," and the prospect of making money through marijuana is a way to "help correct the harms and right the wrongs that have been inflicted by mass incarceration," Janey said, pointing to statistics showing that while blacks and whites uses drugs at similar rates, blacks are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites.
Janey called on councilors to act quickly, to avoid what happened with liquor licenses in Boston - where rich, typically out-of-town corporations have sucked out most of the liquor licenses from Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.
"We cannot let that happen again," she said.
Under Janey's proposal, the city would set up its own cannabis board to oversee the roughly 50 marijuana licenses that will be available in Boston - a number set in part by the council itself, which bars marijuana establishments from setting up closer than a half mile to another pot facility. The city would supply funds from the tax on pot shops to help train the local entrepreneurs.
Applicants for the first two years would be required to be Boston residents who also meet at least three of several conditions, including owners who live in "an area of disproportionate impact" from the War on Drugs; who have been convicted of marijuana trafficking in the past, or who is married to such a person; who are black or Latino; or who has current income below 400% of the federal poverty level.
After two years, out-of-town companies would be allowed to bid on Boston marijuana licenses, but the board would be responsible for ensuring a certain ratio of local to non-local owners. The board would be allowed to create license fees, but at no higher rates than the city currently charges holders of liquor-store licenses.
The council approved further study of the proposal, which means it will go to a council committee for a public hearing before coming back to the council for a vote.