The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition selected a new president on Nov. 17. Incoming president Averyl Andrade will serve on an interim basis until January, following the premature departure of her predecessor.
Grant Smith Ellis resigned as president last month following a budget shortfall from the organization’s annual Freedom Rally on Boston Common cut into MassCann’s modest bank reserves.
For decades, MassCann has existed as a major advocacy organization for legalized cannabis. For about three decades, the organization’s main vehicle for fundraising has been the annual rally.
Following the organization’s September rally, MassCann found that its reserves had been depleted to around $6,000. Without any additional funds, the organization would have to go into debt as soon as January based on upcoming expenses. Ensuring the non-profit can keep itself out of debt will be a crucial goal for the incoming leadership.
“I’m confident that we’re going to make the changes and improvements that the organization needs right now,” she said. “First and foremost we need to address this budget issue.”
At the Nov. 17 meeting, David Rabinovitz, who is temporarily working as an interim treasurer reported that the organization had about $8,000 in the bank with almost $10,000 in outstanding debts.
“We’re still underwater,” he said, before noting that the organization was expecting a $5,000 donation in the next month.
Considering the small window Andrade will have until possibly facing reelection in January, she said aside from cash flow, she will be focusing on boosting membership.
“I really feel strongly that through hardcore membership drives, we’ll be able to get that money,” she said.
Chandra Batra, who also ran for the presidency, was chosen to serve as press secretary. Andrade said that Batra has been a longtime activist for cannabis legalization in the state.
“There were a lot of times when there were just a small amount of people with signs in front of the state house. You get to know people at that individual level,” she said. “Chandra has been fighting for patient rights for so long. You can feel that passion generate off her.”
Andrade said that it was personal health reasons that attracted her to cannabis. She is a medical cannabis patient with lupus and fibromyalgia.
“There was a stage in my life where I was taking 16 prescriptions, multiple times a day,” she said.
Andrade just completed her seventh season operating Between The Rows farm in Westport, Massachusetts. Andrade said that she is one of many farmers in the state that are interested in working their way into the cannabis cultivation market. The lucrative cannabis market is especially attractive to farmers who must endure a seemingly unlimited supply of possible financial setbacks.
“Unfortunately, it’s the art of going from one catastrophe to another,” she said.
MassCann was affiliated with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for years until 2020 when the two organizations severed ties after members of MassCann’s leadership organized a Straight Pride Parade in Boston and participated in “Blue Lives Matter” rallies following the death of George Floyd.
Andrade said that she would support an effort to return to the national organization, but only if it was supported by the membership.
“If the members feel it’s appropriate to go back, then I will do anything I can to help get that status,” she said.