Where will the REAF draw funds from, and how will they be distributed?

October 25, 2020

Where+will+the+REAF+draw+funds+from%2C+and+how+will+they+be+distributed%3F

GRAPHIC BY JEREMIAH LEVY

The REAF would provide financial aid to Black and Latinx populations in Brookline who have been adversely affected by previous marijuana policies. It also offers grants to any minorities seeking to open their own dispensary in Brookline

According to Select Board Member Raul Fernandez, the REAF planned to utilize up to 35 percent of the Mitigation Fund in order to finance this project. The Mitigation Fund itself comes from taxed dispensary revenue, dispensaries such as New England Treatment Access (NETA) and Sanctuary Medicinals.

However, choosing a source from which to appropriate funds is not cut-and-dry, as state and local laws stipulate exactly what money a town can and cannot use for aid. A co-author of Warrant Article 29, Fernandez said that use of the Mitigation Fund was motivated by its reliability.

“We can’t control , but the thing we can control is the taxed mitigation funds we get from them. Then, we can control what happens with that money, and we know that that money is going to be there, regardless of who owns the shop,” Fernandez said.

However, the money from dispensary revenue taxes may not actually be usable for REAF’s purposes, according to the Host Community Agreement (HCA). An HCA, formed between a town and its dispensaries, sets guidelines for the dispensaries’ operation. The agreement outlines very specific uses for the taxed money, most notably to repair any damages or impacts incurred by dispensaries.

Due to this potential issue, the final resolution passed at Town Meeting last year requests that the Local Options Tax, a separate 3 percent tax levied on all local businesses, be the source of the project’s funding. Considering that the town administers and controls this tax, they could direct it towards anything deemed pertinent, including the REAF.

Since the Select Board decides how to implement the resolution, they have instead elected to try to use the Mitigation Fund despite its possible challenges. This choice entails communication with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission and is pending approval, so there remains the possibility that it won’t be cleared. However, Fernandez is confident in the decision.

“What we’ve been working on is communicating with the Cannabis Control Commission and trying to get resolution as to whether or not we can use the mitigation funds like this. The Town Administrator thinks we can and I want to be supportive of that,” Fernandez said.

However, the main problems with how this money will be handled arise from the manner with which it is distributed. Jasiel F. Correia II is the former mayor of Fall River, Mass. Correia was charged in 2019 for wire fraud, filing false tax returns and accepting bribes in exchange for licenses to operate marijuana dispensaries.

Original practitioner of Warrant Article 29 and co-author of the REAF, Donelle O’Neall Sr. said that because of this history of corruption, Brookline must discover how to avoid unethical distribution practices in their own program.

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