Cities and towns that haven’t implemented formal, indefinite bans cannot use overly long moratoriums, zoning rules, bylaws, or other “unreasonably impracticable” measures to effectively prevent marijuana companies from locating within their borders, according to the commission. They also cannot demand unlimited payments from operators, a problem that’s bedeviled the state’s earlier medical marijuana program.
However, municipalities can require special permits and a separate, local application process. Prospective marijuana businesses must also host a community meeting to take questions from residents and negotiate a “host community agreement.” with the city or town.
Marijuana businesses and their attorneys said that a company confronted with unreasonable local demands is more likely to simply move on to another community than sue its future host city or town over the matter, giving municipalities an advantage in negotiations.
And proponents say they’re already hitting such speed bumps, including municipalities that have confined marijuana companies to tiny industrial districts on the edge of town, or have implemented large buffers around schools and day cares that, drawn out on a map, cover nearly all of their territory.
“Just because there are 162 communities without bans or moratoriums, we cannot assume that there are 162 welcomingcommunities,” said Smith, the cannabis lawyer. “These bans and moratoriums are just the beginning.”
Kamani Jefferson, president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, said he was optimistic that the finalization of state regulations would prompt cities and towns to replace their moratoriums with zoning. He also said he’s counting on an underwhelming recreational rollout to galvanize pro-marijuana consumersagainst further local bans, noting that many local restrictions were implemented at sparsely attended hearings or through low-turnout, off-cycle referendums.
“I’m hoping it gets the people who want a store in their area more active in terms of asking, ‘What’s taking so long and what can we do?’ ” he said.