Prospective adult-use pot businesses — even ones already operating as medical marijuana companies — have to obtain a “host community agreement” form signed off on by local officials. And, under state law, communities aren’t held to any timetable for reviewing the permits, which Borghesani says has resulted in unreasonable delays in the licensing process.
Municipalities can also require so-called impact fees from prospective businesses, which are supposed to be “reasonably related to the costs imposed” by a marijuana establishment operating in town.
Two state senators recently wrote to state regulators concurring with Borghesani’s concern about the “widespread” practice of towns using the host community agreements, including excessive impact fees, as a “form of prohibition.”
The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which represents the state’s cities and towns, has pushed back against those criticisms, arguing that municipalities are trying to do their “due diligence” on how to approach a new industry that still conflicts with federal law. Borghesani thinks they’ve had more than enough time.
“As soon as this was passed in 2016, towns should have started the process of figuring out where they were going to zone,” he said, noting that zoning for controlled substances has been something local communities have governed “for decades.”
Massachusetts also experienced lags in the rollout of its medical marijuana industry, which now has a total of 36 registered dispensaries. And though for different reasons, those delays may now be having somewhat of a carryover effect, even when shops do begin getting online.
“It’s not like Colorado where they already had a hundred medical dispensaries,” Barber said. “Massachusetts is still growing into that medical market.”