Mayor Marty Walsh said Monday that Boston expects its first recreational marijuana shops at some point in 2019, and that diversity is being prioritized in the city's application process.
In an opinion piece in the Boston Globe, Walsh said that the city was "taking seriously [its] responsibility to give communities a voice in this process and achieve much-needed equity in this new industry."
Walsh, who acknowledged his personal opposition to the 2016 ballot measure that legalized marijuana in Massachusetts, as well as his continued concerns, said the city would follow the will of the voters and has been approving preliminary applications for pot shops since April.
"I am committed to implementing the law in a manner that is timely, equitable, and respectful of the voters and the community," Walsh wrote.
The mayor said the first company picked for a host community agreement was led by a woman of color and would hire former inmates from the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department as staff. That store hopes to open near North Station next year.
But prohibitive startup costs and difficulty securing loans due to marijuana's federal illegality, Walsh said, have limited the number of viable minority applicants.
Walsh said the city would consider requiring one entrepreneur of color to be selected for every other applicant approved.
"This 'one-to-one' system of parity would result in a slower sequence of approvals," Walsh wrote. "But we believe it is worth exploring every avenue, because equity is a value worth working for."
On Nov. 20, New England Treatment Access in Northampton and Cultivate in Leicester became the first recreational pot shops in the eastern United States.
Three more final licenses, in Wareham, Salem and Easthampton, have also been approved by the Cannabis Control Commission.