Municipalities Cannot Maintain a Stranglehold on Marijuana

by | Cannabis News | 0 comments

Author: Geoffrey Cole

Date: February 25, 2021

TLDR: Holyoke Massachusetts has created an effective system to take advantage of the cannabis industry, but they are the exception, for the most part, towns have created too many barriers to marijuana businesses making it very hard to succeed in MA – this requires state oversight and a potential reworking of the licensing process in order to fix. In addition, this requires reeducation surrounding pot to make sure people are making laws based on facts, not opinions. I am skeptical that will happen under the current gubernatorial administration.

At a time when small businesses around the country are struggling with the weight of the COVID pandemic, locales where barriers to license approvals, real estate, and community agreements have been dropped, the marijuana industry has been able to carry on at a steady clip.

In contrast to some of Massachusetts’ larger cities and towns, particularly Boston and Holyoke Massachusetts, have become a hotbed for cannabis businesses of all types. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has already approved 40 provisional licenses for businesses in the town – the most per-capita of any town in the state. Many are ready to open in the next year.

There are several reasons for this growth. Old, vacant, paper mills are abundant in the town making for sprawling and inexpensive real estate; the town’s mayor was an early and vocal proponent for the legalization of recreational use marijuana; Holyoke also boasts the cheapest electricity in the state which, for an energy-hungry industry like cannabis, is a huge draw; and, most importantly, the town’s host community agreement process is simple, requiring very little from the businesses in order to be considered.

While it goes without saying that we cannot “copy and paste” this model into towns across Massachusetts, Holyoke is an example of the possibility inherent in embracing the cannabis industry. The town plans to tax the business at 3% of their total income, meaning a massive influx of cash that will only be furthered by ancillary business development and a more financially stable citizenry. Furthermore, businesses are urged to hire locally, increasing opportunity for residents.

Meanwhile, in other Massachusetts towns, though recreational marijuana is permitted, elected officials have created massive barriers to entry. Without banning recreational sale outright, they have made it impossible to succeed. In Boston, between 2018, when statewide recreational sales launched, and 2020, just a small handful of community agreements were approved. And in other small towns there are just two or three licenses to be had – immediately being handed to those with the capital to stand up a business in a short period.

Even more disturbing are cases like Fall River, Massachusetts where the mayor extorted cannabis businesses for the right to do business within their borders.

All this amounts to a regulatory circus where cannabis businesses are forced to find the handful of towns that are “open for business,” fight for however many licenses the town is willing to give out (usually limited to 25% of their liquor licenses) and avoid anywhere where time and money will be spent with little reward. Furthermore, with so much variation town-to-town on processes for application, agreement, and approval, the possibility of navigating this situation without costly outside professional help is unlikely.

Ultimately, we are left with two options: adopt state regulations that require towns to head in the direction of Holyoke to expand opportunity and limit discrimination against this narrow type of business; or remove municipal control over this issue. It is also essential to reframe the conversation surrounding marijuana and shift towards discussing its’ positive impacts and community opportunity, rather than the negative focus that has given rise to these overly restrictive regulations.

Regardless of the “right” answer, a solution will require more not less State oversight – an outcome slowed by a Republican Governor warry of overstepping and towns eager to retain control – and fervent work of organizers and supporters to change the narrative surrounding pot.

Read the Full Article Here: https://www.benzinga.com/markets/cannabis/20/04/15839579/host-community-agreements-slow-massachusetts-dispensary-openingshttps:/www.westernmassnews.com/news/cannabis-retailers-flock-to-holyoke/article_b52f7e88-7642-11eb-97fa-536536cb4594.html

Photo Credit: https://norml.org/blog/2020/10/19/missouri-licensed-medical-cannabis-retailers-now-open-for-business/

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