March 27, 2020
Hon. Charles D. Baker, Governor
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon Street, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133
Hon. Karen E. Spilka, President Massachusetts State Senate 24 Beacon Street, Room 332 Boston, MA 02133
Hon. Robert A. DeLeo, Speaker Massachusetts House of Representatives 24 Beacon Street, Room 356 Boston, MA 02133
Governor Baker, President Spilka, and Speaker DeLeo:
I hope this letter finds you, your families, and your staff’s in good health. Thank you for your continued efforts to protect the residents of Massachusetts in this unfolding crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I write to you on behalf of our close to 300 business members from across the Commonwealth. They are being hit hard. Already in a precarious position, a survey of our members last week revealed that more than 60% believe they will have to close their doors indefinitely in less than 90 days without focused relief. As we showed at our recent Mass. Black Expo in November 2019 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, more and more Black businesses were just now reaching a place to stabilize themselves. This progress is now severely threatened as a result of COVID-19.
That is why I am urging you to center equity in all of your decision-making to ensure those disparities that existed prior to the crisis are not drastically widened when we come out on the other side. Specifically, it is important that you support MACDC’s recommendations to invest an initial $150 million in small businesses, particularly in the form of grants, and that you heed calls to reverse the decision to close recreational cannabis shops across the Commonwealth.
2012 US Census Data found that there are over 1,200 Black-owned businesses in Massachusetts that earn over $1 billion in revenue and pay over $300 million in payroll to employ 13,000 local residents. It is clear that the stability of Black businesses is of paramount importance to the stability of Black communities and the Massachusetts economy overall.
While existing loan products are welcome and needed, the reality is that Black businesses either cannot take on more debt, or were already not in a position to qualify for a loan. Grants are needed to sustain our businesses and keep more Massachusetts residents from joining the growing unemployment line at the State House door.
It is also vitally important that the decision to close recreational cannabis establishments be rescinded. Several years ago, an overwhelming majority of residents affirmatively voted both to allow for the sale of recreational marijuana, and to establish measures to ensure those communities most severely impacted by the failed War on Drugs had the opportunity to participate.
While the latter process has gotten off to a slow start, we were pleased to see the state’s first Economic Empowerment applicant open their doors in the earlier part of this month. Unfortunately, this first step toward correcting decades of legal malpractice and a continued history of injustice came just as COVID-19 began to rise in the public consciousness.
The cannabis industry provides Massachusetts with a unique opportunity to grow wealth in suffering communities. The order to close these shops right as they were getting off the ground may be well-intentioned, but it will have the disastrous effect of destroying any chance of creating equity in an industry that is already deeply inequitable. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision and to follow the lead of Los Angeles, which declared recreational marijuana shops ‘essential’ businesses. This would keep local residents employed and make local economies strong.
I appreciate your attention to and swift resolution of these matters. Continue to be safe and keep healthy. We value your leadership.
Sincerely, Segun Idowu Executive Director
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez
Chair, MA Black & Latino Legislative Caucus
Sec. Marylou Sudders Health & Human Services
Sec. Mike Kennealy
Housing & Economic Development
Sec. Rosalin Acosta Labor, Workforce Development