2. Local factors behind the delay
The most common hurdles have appeared at the local level, where many municipalities have been slow to move on zoning regulations, special local permits and so-called Host Community Agreements (HCAs).
Recreational applicants, whether they be existing medical operators or new businesses, must obtain special local permits from the towns or cities they’re located in before they can complete state recreational applications.
However, a cannabis business can’t apply for a local municipality’s special permit without the town or city already having zoning rules in place, said Jason Sidman, president of Sanctuary Medicinals, an operational MMJ business in Littleton, Mass.
The problem is, many municipalities are far from finalizing those MJ business zoning regulations.
An example of this issue involves Sira Naturals, which recently won Massachusetts’ first recreational cultivation license.
The company has MMJ dispensaries in Somerville and Cambridge, which are both still determining their adult-use zoning regulations and aren’t expected to finish until September, noted Sira Naturals CEO Michael Dundas.
Once Somerville and Cambridge finalize their rec zoning regulations and provide the company with a special local permit, Sira will then be able to apply for state adult-use retail licenses.
Dundas expects the process to take 60-90 days after the September clarification of local zoning issues to receive the state recreational retail license.
He predicted it will be wintertime before Sira opens a retail rec outlet.
As for the Host Community Agreements, they’re another part of the official state recreational cannabis application and a unique Massachusetts requirement levied on MJ businesses and other entities, like gaming outlets and universities.
HCAs, which are negotiated between a cannabis business and a municipality, focus on how much money the MJ company is expected to pay to offset costs the city or town may incur because of the firm’s presence.
This could include things like the cost of extra police or installing traffic signs or lights.
HCA details can take a long time to clarify, and negotiations cannot usually even begin until a cannabis company has already obtained its special local permit from the town or city, pointed out Sanctuary Medicinals’ Sidman.