MA: Trade Group Forms To Represent Marijuana Industry

Photo Credit: Jason Connolly

With recreational marijuana sales just weeks away in Massachusetts, a new trade group is forming to gather all the different business interests of the nascent cannabis industry under one name.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association, or MCBA, is set to launch with a May 15 kickoff meeting. The group expects to include licensed companies, such as marijuana growers, product makers, and retailers, and is also inviting professionals such as lawyers, Web designers, and landlords, who do business with pot firms.

Conceived by the law firm Smith, Costello, and Crawford, which represents marijuana companies, the business association has to first persuade factions within the marijuana community that have squared off in recent months over various issues to unite behind a single agenda. The group is promising to lobby only for big-picture policies that bring consensus, not nitty-gritty regulations that would pit one set of interests against another.

One area ripe for lobbying: cities and towns that are reluctant to allow cannabis shops and growing facilities.

“We want to promote the growth of a responsible, sustainable, destigmatized industry, and be a voice for that industry,” said James McMahon, an attorney who will be interim executive director. “Fifty years out, we want to be just as successful as any other business in Massachusetts.”

One key goal: create a directory of marijuana-friendly service providers that don’t charge pot companies a premium or back out of agreements because of legal concerns. That’s a common frustration in the industry, and a directory would especially help smaller operators with fewer connections. The MCBA also wants to entice professional services companies to work for marijuana firms.

“These ancillary folks might be interested in offering their services to the cannabis industry, but they don’t know where to begin,” said Jay Youmans, a partner and lobbyist at Smith, Costello and Crawford who helped form the business association.

The MCBA hopes to host job fairs, provide consumers with information about pot products, and connect investors with license-holders.

The group’s founders pledged to also have a diverse board, acknowledging that activists are leery of having big-business types take over the marijuana business now that it’s legal.

Shanel Lindsay, an activist and owner of cannabis device firm Ardent, tentatively applauded the effort.

“I’m for anything that bridges the gap between other industries and professions and the cannabis industry,” she said. “Getting access to services can be very frustrating. It’d be nice if you didn’t have to waste time contacting people who turn their nose up at you because you’re in the cannabis business.”