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Mayor Janey releases Request for Proposals for technical assistance programs for cannabis equity applicants

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Economic Development

New capacity building program will support equity in the cannabis industry

BOSTON - Friday, April 16, 2021 - Mayor Kim Janey announced that the City of Boston this week released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to provide technical assistance support to certified cannabis equity applicants. This $675,000 investment over three years is designed to expand economic and entrepreneurial opportunity and capacity. Completed proposals will be accepted monthly on a rolling basis, on the first day of each month, for a three year period, beginning on April 1, 2021 and ending March 31, 2024. The first deadline will be May 1, 2021. Proposals can be submitted electronically via the City of Boston Supplier Portal

"Today we are taking a major step forward in lifting up local entrepreneurs with diverse ownership from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs," said Mayor Kim Janey. “We want to ensure that business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry have the tools they need to grow and thrive in Boston.”

In 2016, the Citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved a ballot question to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana. That law requires the development of "procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

In November 2019, in her former role as Boston City Council President, Mayor Kim Janey led the City Council in passing an Ordinance to establish equitable regulation of the cannabis industry in the City of Boston. This ordinance was the result of a collaboration from many stakeholders and advocates and ensures Boston’s role as a national model for how to create a system that fosters racial equity and inclusion in the new cannabis industry. 

As part of this ordinance, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED) will oversee the Cannabis Technical Assistance Program to assist any eligible certified cannabis equity applicants. This designation is based on the majority of an applicant’s business ownership and gives preference to people who reside in areas impacted hardest by the war on drugs, Boston residents, people of color, and people with low incomes, among others. Based on this criteria, the City will maintain an equal or greater number of equity applicant licensees to licensees that do not qualify as equity applicants. The Office of Economic Development has also hired a full-time Cannabis Industry Manager to work directly with cannabis applicants to guide equity applicants through the certification process and to match their needs with experienced TA providers.

“Cannabis is a fast-growing industry, and Boston is committed to ensuring that equity applicants in our city can access the resources they need to launch a successful business,” said Midori Morikawa, Interim Chief of Economic Development. “Boston is the first city in the United States to formally prioritize diverse applicants who are looking to participate in this emerging industry. With this new RFP, the Boston Cannabis Equity Program will support equity applicants with critical technical assistance across business operations, workforce development, legal compliance, and other best practices to assist diverse cannabis businesses throughout the city.”

Applicants and licensees seeking to be certified pursuant to the Ordinance are reviewed and certified by the Office of Economic Development, in collaboration with the Boston Cannabis Board and other appropriate city departments when applicable. Once selected, the Office of Economic Development shall facilitate the initial engagement with the contractor. In each case, the contractor will be expected to work directly with the cannabis equity applicant.

"Since its formation, the Boston Cannabis Board has worked diligently to ensure equity, both to whom cannabis establishment licenses are granted and the geographic distribution of these licenses through the City of Boston," said Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce. "We have prioritized equity since the beginning of this new industry in Boston. Providing technical assistance to certified equity applicants is critical to ensuring those communities negatively impacted by the failed war on drugs have access to this emerging industry. We want to support these applicants throughout the entire process, and we look forward to continuing this important work."

Technical assistance providers are experienced business consultants that, through this program, will provide high quality one-on-one assistance to designated businesses, and also provide group workshops and coaching sessions to existing or aspiring business owners. Services can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Assistance with business operations, including the development of business plans; 
  • Assistance recruiting employees;
  • Guidance and assistance through the application process;
  • Assistance with legal compliance;
  • Accounting and tax preparedness assistance;
  • Best practices for operating in the marijuana industry; 
  • Assistance with store security;
  • Assistance identifying and raising funds and capital and identifying vendors;
  • Guidance on legal issues and compliance; and
  • Other cannabis business equity applicant needs. 

All prospective TA providers are encouraged to attend a live applicant conference session for the opportunity to address questions relative to the content of the RFP. These sessions will be held quarterly, via Zoom, and will occur in person pending updated COVID-19 public health restrictions at 1 City Hall Sq., Boston, MA 02201. To register, view upcoming dates, and join the conference, please visit: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ETxD64JzTQqNBpyq0Wbvdg 

Every month, on the first business day of the month, applications will be downloaded from the City of Boston Supplier Portal website for review. The RFP will appear live again the next day for the following month. In order to participate in these online procurement activities, bidders must register with the Supplier Portal.  

The City of Boston encourages a full range of TA providers to apply for this opportunity to support the varied and dynamic needs of small business owners of all backgrounds. The City of Boston seeks to promote the full participation and equity of opportunity for minority‐owned and women‐owned enterprises (“M/WBEs”) on City of Boston contracts. To support these City objectives and to further the City’s progress toward achieving its goal of 25% M/WBE participation on City discretionary spend, the City encourages minority-owned and woman-owned enterprises to respond to this RFP. 

ABOUT THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CABINET

The Economic Development Cabinet's mission is to make Boston an appealing and accessible place for working families, entrepreneurs, businesses, and investors to innovate, grow, and thrive in a way that fosters inclusion, broadens opportunity, and shares prosperity, thereby enhancing the quality of life for all Bostonians and the experience for all visitors. Learn more on their website

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