In addition to lowering prices and speeding up the opening of future pot stores, a loosening of municipal restrictions could increase the number of marijuana firms owned by local residents — and members of disadvantaged groups affected disproportionately by the war on drugs, who under the law are supposed to get a boost in the state licensing process.
Somerville, for example, recently instituted an ordinance that will see the city approve such local and so-called “economic empowerment” applicants on an alternating basis with more established medical dispensaries.
“In my view, the rollout will be faster and more equitable as more cities and towns seize the opportunity to embrace small and local businesses,” said cannabis commissioner Shaleen Title. “I hope that as moratoriums expire, local officials will look to cities like Somerville.”
For consumers in Boston, where voters overwhelmingly backed legalization at the ballot box in 2016, the imminent opening of ATG in Salem will provide a somewhat more convenient option for buying cannabis; it’s 30 to 40 minutes away from the city, while Cultivate in Leicester is a little more than an hour away.
The administration of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a strident opponent of legalization in 2016, only signed its first host community agreement with a marijuana business in October, for a cultivation and processing facility in the Newmarket industrial neighborhood called Green Line. It recently signed a second contract with a marijuana retailer called Ascend, run by former Suffolk County sheriff Andrea Cabral, to be located on Friend Street near TD Garden. A number of other companies are still negotiating with — or waiting on — the city.
The mayor recently acknowledged to the Boston Herald that the city’s five-step application process — which advocates and industry leaders have criticized as slow, subjective, and opaque — is “complicated,” though he said he thinks a recreational marijuana company might open in Boston “early next year.”
Both Green Line and Ascend can now proceed to the state application process, which will probably take several months. But since neither company is operating under a medical marijuana license and must build their facilities from scratch, their actual opening dates are probably even further out.