Grow, Gift, Repair

Are lawsuits coming? part 2

Commissioner Shaleen Title argued that regulators have a role to play in ensuring that host community agreements aren’t violating the law.

“If we don’t set perimeters now, we never will,” she said. “The local approval process is the mother of all barriers for entry into the market.”
Commissioner Britte McBride, a Lynnfield lawyer, argued that reviewing community host agreements falls outside the board’s regulatory authority.

“We have no authority to require a municipality to do anything,” she told fellow commissioners.

McBride said a review would also slow down the process of approving marijuana licenses, with a rollout of retail sales already delayed by nearly two months.

To date, the commission has received more than 2,400 applications for retail marijuana shops and growing facilities. It has approved more than 20 licenses and is currently reviewing 112 applications from dozens of companies. That includes five proposed sites in Essex County, most of which are still being reviewed.

None have opened for business, however, as the state is still in the process of granting licenses and setting up pot testing facilities required by law.

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Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said cities and towns have “broad authority” to enter into such agreements which are no different than contracts with real estate developers and others to offset the increased costs of providing police, fire and other municipal services.

“There’s really no issue here, other than the commercial marijuana industry trying to placate their membership by stirring up the pot,” he said..

Valerio Romano, an attorney and partner at the Vicente Sederberg law firm, which works exclusively with marijuana businesses, argues that state regulators should stay out of the fray over community host agreements. Contractual disputes should be taken up by the attorney general’s office, he suggests.

“If a contract violates state law, that should be a concern for the attorney general, not the regulators who are scrambling to implement this law,” he said.

He also takes issue with claims that large operators are trying to squeeze the small guys out of the market by agreeing to pay hefty impact fees.

“None of the operators, big or small, want to pay more than is required under state law,” Romano said. “In the long run, they won’t be competitive.”