When legal recreational marijuana becomes available for sale in Massachusetts in the coming years, minority communities that have suffered from generations of illicit drug trade may stand to benefit from the profitable new industry.

Local officials and groups of industry experts are working to craft new rules they say will ensure communities of color full access to ownership of and employment in the pot shops set to open in the Bay State in 2018 or 2019.

Boston's City Council is wasting no time taking advantage of language in the new law that instructs the state to make the new industry open to minorities.

"Massachusetts can, and should be, a leader in developing an equitable system," Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said at a working group meeting Tuesday at City Hall. Chaired by Dorchester Councilor Frank Baker and sponsored by Pressley, the working group brought together industry experts with experience in marijuana cultivation and sales in Colorado and Massachusetts to solicit recommendations on making the system fair for minorities.

The ballot question approved by voters in November calls for a three-member Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the burgeoning industry. Less noticed in the text of the 25-page initiative is a provision that requires the new commission to come up with "procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the regulated marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities." In laymen's terms, the government has to come up with ways communities of color can benefit from the profitable marijuana industry. Fully including minority communities, who have bared the brunt of the "war on drugs" and disproportionate enforcement compared to white populations, is the aim of policymakers now trying to shape regulations that will control licensing for the industry.

Interest in the new industry doesn't stop with Boston. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse says he wants both a medical and recreational marijuana facility in Holyoke and sees legal weed as an economic driver for tourism and to boost the city's innovation district, which houses a growing number of tech companies.

"We see this as just another economic development project that will bring people to our city," Morse said.

Morse also listed "making sure that those people who work at these dispensaries that are being employed reflect the makeup of the communities in which they're in," as a key component of assuring equity in the retail and cultivation business.

"I think there should be some sort of incentives. I'm not sure exactly what that should be, but there should be some sort of economic and regulatory incentives for those folks to either have minority investors, partners," Morse said.

Many of the experts testifying at Tuesday's City Council meeting said assuring access to capital and giving communities control over licensing are the best way government can support minority entrepreneurs looking to sell legal marijuana.

"There are certain communities that have been decimated and damaged by prohibition. Looking at those communities, I think we really need to look at local control over licenses in those communities," Shanel Lindsay, founder and president of Ardent Cannabis, said, suggesting that residency requirements may be useful to ensure local investment in marijuana businesses.

Marijuana business owners also counselled officials to give employers access to potential employees with non-violent criminal records. Restrictions in other states on letting drug offenders work in the marijuana industry has harmed the racial makeup of the workforce, they said.

Other experts testified that disproportionate enforcement between minority and white communities has been a problem in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Lindsay also urged the Council to recommend policies that would invest money saved by no longer enforcing old drug laws back into the community through job training and other programs.

Pressley said the working group's recommendations will be collected in a report and submitted to Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, the top state official charged under the new law with developing the CCC and regulations.

Yes on 4 communication director Jim Borghesani says the authors of the ballot question didn't intend to make specific goals for including minority communities in the new industry, but wanted to empower the new Cannabis Control Commission to find the right way to get the job done.

Borghesani said the CCC could come up with a number of different ways to implement the goal of inclusion, including employment quotas, programs for outreach and other methods. The point of Pressley's hearing in Boston Tuesday, he said, is to start to figure out the best way to reach those goals.

Borghesani said that delaying implementation of the new cannabis system, as Beacon Hill leaders have said may happen under a new law to adjust industry regulations, would be a mistake and prevent much-needed revenues from reaching stretched state coffers. Any "Legislative fixes" to the new law could be handled later, after implementation, with input from the CCC's panel of industry experts, Borghesani said.

"What we think the Legislature should do is make sure the timelines go on as planned. That the Cannabis Control Commission is seated as the timeline dictates and that their work begins," Borghesani said.