The City Council is expected to vote at its next meeting on a bill that would dramatically overhaul Boston’s pot-shop approval process — including the creation of a fund to help some marijuana shops start up — as city officials face a federal subpoena.
The proposal by City Councilor Kim Janey, which she first put forward in February, would dramatically change the oversight process, creating an outside board that would oversee licensing, rather than the license board.
It also would create an “equity fund” that would go toward helping priority “equity applicants” — pot shops owned an operated by minorities and meet various other guidelines including five years of Boston residency. The fund would start off with $1 million and then receive money from the city’s tax on pot sales, according to the most recent draft of the ordinance.
The city currently has 13 Host Community Agreements with pot purveyor hopefuls, but none have opened up — now going on three years after the state legalized weed by referendum.
Janey’s proposal would give priority to applicants when more than half of the ownership meets various criteria including being black or Latino, having a prior conviction for selling pot and being a Boston resident for at least five years. It would also require more transparency about where applicants are in the process and how they’re being judged.
Janey pushed for a sudden vote a week and a half ago, announcing the morning of a council meeting that she’d be seeking passage a couple of hours later. This week, she and City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who is the chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, both said they expect the ordinance to come up for a vote at the next council meeting, which is Nov. 20.
Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration continues to go back and forth with Janey over some details of the ordinance.
Janey didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling issued a subpoena this week to Boston seeking all records connected to any business that has applied for a marijuana license in the city. The subpoena requests the city provide all documents by Nov. 14. It covers city departments under Mayor Walsh’s authority as well as city councilors.
Lelling said earlier this year that he was concerned about pot bribes happening in other communities, after charging the mayor of Fall River, Jasiel Correia.
“The Law Department asks that you and your staff locate any such responsive documents and forward them to the Law Department,” a Boston legal staffer wrote in a letter to city councilors this week.
Former federal prosecutor George Vien told the Herald, “The federal government is finally taking a look at the industry.”
He added, “They want to see if there’s corruption — is there a quid pro quo for giving licenses and allowing dispensaries to open.”