When it comes to social equity in Greater Boston, private enterprise and the voluntary sector aren’t going it alone. A public-private partnership is working to help people who were adversely affected by the War on Drugs obtain a foothold in the cannabis industry.
Launched in 2019, Mass CultivatED strives to help people who were arrested or incarcerated, have family members who had those same experiences, or live in an area where those experiences have had a disproportionate impact on the population. The program refers to them as “fellows.”
“When I decided to get one of these licenses and create a cannabis business, one of the things that I was aware of was the injustice and enforcement of those laws and of cannabis,” says Dr. Karen Munkacy, founder, president and CEO of Garden Remedies, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Massachusetts and one of Mass CultivatED’s partners. Many of those who are arrested and incarcerated for cannabis are minorities or people who are unable to afford an expensive attorney, she adds.
Pauline Quirion, director of the CORI and Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), another partner, says businesses and organizations are stating that “Black Lives Matter” and issuing statements in support of racial equality. Mass CultivatED is taking that a step further, she adds. “These are folks who are actually not just talking about racial equality, they’re doing something, they’re giving people real opportunities for employment and also for a career, which is really life changing, because if you think about the War on Drugs, it has had the biggest impact on communities of color.”
Mass CultivatED was founded by Massachusetts State Rep. Chynah Tyler (D), who serves the largely minority and low-income 7th Suffolk district. In building Mass CultivatED, Tyler’s former Chief of Staff Ryan Dominguez, now the