Grow, Gift, Repair

CCC visits Berkshires

Municipal attorney J. Raymond Miyares detailed the many ways towns can control the location, impacts and operations of adult-use retailers through legally binding and enforceable host community agreements with marijuana businesses. A town’s Select Board is required to submit a letter of support or of non-opposition to the commission, which is required to obtain a state license.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that a community is experiencing a net-positive outcome,” he said. Miyares encouraged towns to think about the physical, safety, community and infrastructure impacts of marijuana facilities that should be detailed in host community agreements. Towns can legitimately deny an agreement, but only if negotiations with a potential business operator fail, he noted.

He pointed out that every Berkshire city and town voted “yes” on the 2016 Election Day ballot question on legalizing marijuana. For “yes” towns, unless voters approve a local ballot question imposing a prohibition, marijuana retail businesses cannot be banned outright.

Towns can limit retail marijuana establishments to 20 percent of the number of package stores in the community, Doyle noted. So, for example, a town with five or fewer alcohol retailers could confine adult-use pot shops to one.

Offering a breezy, conversational description of the many hoops that cultivators, manufacturers and retailers must jump through, she also pointed out that “real farmers who felt shut out of the industry” can form a “craft marijuana cooperative” in order to participate in growing and manufacturing.

Citing several western states where “too much marijuana is being grown,” Doyle described rules designed to avert a similar problem in Massachusetts through management to avoid over-production.

Retailers can be accessed only by adults 21 or older, she emphasized, and, if in the same facility with a medical marijuana dispensary, by patients with a state-issued registered marijuana dispensary card.

Separate licenses for marijuana research facilities will be issued so the state can be a “leader in research.” she added.

Another type of license is available for micro-businesses, “a teeny-tiny marijuana company,” as Doyle put it, limited to 5,000 square feet for cultivation, manufacturing and retail sales. Those reduced-fee licenses are available only to state residents in order to “stimulate small-business enterprises,” she noted.

Once a license application packet is completed, the Cannabis Control Commission gives towns 60 days to confirm whether or not the proposed business complies with local zoning bylaws or ordinances.

Citing a “hot-button issue,” Doyle told the audience that local towns cannot prevent conversion of an existing medical marijuana dispensary to an adult-use sales establishment, either as a replacement or as an add-on retail enterprise.

She also stressed that registered medical marijuana dispensaries are “grandfathered” from zoning bylaws that would prevent them from adding an adult-use shop. In addition, “if you have a fully permitted cultivation facility in a town,” she said, “you can’t prevent it through zoning from adding adult-use.”

Doyle commented that the commission would honor moratoriums as a “planning tool” passed by some towns, but only “as a temporary delay for a reasonable length of time.”