How did we get here? How can a plant that uses the sun to create photosynthesis and has existed in nature for thousands of years and evolved alongside humans not be considered agriculture in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? The short answer is because of Harry Anslinger, and America's War on Drugs. The longer answer is more complicated, but it is one that every citizen should know. It is not only related to the cannabis plant and how it is grown on the legal cannabis market; it is also related to our rights as democratic citizens of a Commonwealth.
So, here’s the story that you should know. Shortly after Question 4 was passed in November of 2016, members of the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill behind closed doors with no roll call. This was an undemocratic act. The bill that was passed without the consent of any voters in this state was Bill H.4326, An Act Further Regulating the Cultivation of Marijuana. The name of this bill alone is an overreach by our legislature because it is not the legislature’s job to regulate marijuana. It is the Cannabis Control Commission’s job to regulate marijuana, as is granted by both the People of Massachusetts in Chapter 94G and by the legislature itself in Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017. That is the official position of our Cooperative. We are a Cooperative of People that feel very strongly about our local farmers being included in this billion-dollar industry.
The result of Bill H.4326 was that it changed the Massachusetts Zoning Act, Section 3 of Chapter 40A, such that the cultivation of marijuana was not considered an agricultural activity. Let me quote Chapter 40A, Section 3
the term horticulture shall include the growing and keeping of nursery stock and the sale thereof; provided, however, that the terms agriculture, aquaculture, floriculture and horticulture shall not include the growing, cultivation, distribution or dispensation of marijuana
Passing that bill behind closed doors meant that each municipality had to decide how marijuana cultivation should be zoned. This bill, unfortunately, led to the near total disenfranchisement of farmers from the cannabis industry across the state of Massachusetts, as most municipalities zoned marijuana in commercial and industrial districts rather than on farmland.
Our Cooperative is familiar with the organizations that lobbied in favor of keeping farmers out of the cannabis industry, but we won’t name them here. You can find out who they are if you dig deep enough. The important thing is that we move forward and we ensure that farmers are included in this cannabis industry as is stated in Massachusetts state law, Chapter 55 in the Acts of 2017, AN ACT TO ENSURE SAFE ACCESS TO MARIJUANA, that the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) must “promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by farmers.” Our feeling is that every town in the state of Massachusetts should take the same approach and see to it that farmers and farmland are zoned for cannabis cultivation.
Yes, discussions should take place within communities and we feel much more education needs to happen around adult-use cannabis. But, if it were up to our Co-op, we’d love for more farmers to have more access to this cash crop, and we are advocating to see to it that the law is changed.
So, that is how we got here. Now, let’s all have more discussions about how we move forward, together, to create a fairer and more localized cannabis industry—one that is ethical, one that rewards our hard-working local farmers, and one that offers ownership to its workers. The goal of Farm Bug Co-op is not only to bring the most organically and sustainably-grown craft cannabis to the patients and consumers of Massachusetts. Our goal is also to stimulate our local economies through cooperative ownership and cooperative economics. What that means is thinking about our world differently. And creating a better way.