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Massachusetts’ licensing rules for cannabis delivery are intended to support social equity applicants, but larger companies are finding ways to get in on the action. 

The state’s first delivery and courier license holders came online this year. Both license types are restricted to social equity applicants for three years. Delivery licenses allow businesses to acquire cannabis products at wholesale rates and warehouse it before it can be delivered to customers’ homes. Courier license holders also perform home delivery, but they are bound to obtain cannabis products from retailers they have agreements with and to add a delivery charge, similar to Postmates, DoorDash, or Uber Eats.

Your Green Package, a courier company, delivers for NETA, which is owned by multi-state operator Parallel and Garden Remedies, while Treevit has a deal with Theory Wellness and Ascend Wellness Holdings, another multi-state operator, according to the websites of the respective courier companies.

The need for couriers to partner with retailers for their supply can create sticky situations, especially when couriers that qualify as social equity applicants have business ties to larger companies that would not qualify.

Little Dog Delivery, which also began serving as a courier in recent months, delivers for Panacea Wellness, which is owned by Norwood, Mass.-based multi-state operator MariMed. One of Little Dog Delivery’s owners, Sebastian Pollack, runs his new business while also serving as Product Engineer for MariMed. Timothy Shaw, who is MariMed’s COO, is also a minority shareholder in Little Dog Delivery, according to state filings.

“I am so appreciative that the company has fully supported my going after the license and providing me the job flexibility to work at MariMed and pursue my dream of owning a cannabis business,” said Pollack, when contacted through email.

Although Little Dog’s website only lists Panacea Wellness as a partner dispensary, Pollack said that this was only temporary.

“Little Dog does not have an exclusive relationship with Panacea and the dispensary receives no preferential treatment from the company,” he said. “I wanted to take a crawl, walk, run approach to operating Little Dog, and that meant working with just one dispensary during this early period to ensure we got all the kinks out. Our plans are to absolutely to expand our customer base.”

“I think any time a parent company is engaged with a services contract with a courier, that is an employee of that parent company, there are questions that need to be answered about indirect control over that courier license by the non-equity-owned parent company,” said Grant Smith Ellis, cannabis activist and former president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition.

A spokesperson from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission confirmed that applicants who qualify as social equity or economic empowerment applicants may pursue a license regardless of their employer’s social equity status.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...