“We wanted to keep things simple, and the theory behind that is marijuana is now legal in the state,” Mello said. “So, we are going to treat any type of laboratory, whether they are studying the scientific properties of coffee or marijuana, as the same.”
The licensing ordinance adopted by the City Council in November gives the Licensing Commission the authority to approve or deny for all potential marijuana establishments. The ordinance created a priority period of two years, during which time only applicants identified as Group A: economic empowerment applicants (those disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of marijuana), Somerville residents, and cooperatives, or Group B: existing medical marijuana dispensaries, may receive a license.
“In talking to the Cannabis Control Commission, they tell us that they are not going to consider any application until they get complete local approval,” he said.
The process, in a nutshell, looks like this: first, the applicant applies for a Host Community Agreement. This is ranked by the Mayor’s Marijuana Advisory Committee (MAC), which then makes a recommendation to the Licensing Commission. The Commission then reviews special permits and licensing for that specific applicant. If everything is approved, the process moves on to the state and the CCC. The City is hosting an information session on the application process for prospective applicants on Feb. 13 at 3pm in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.
The MAC is made up of Director of Health and Human Services Doug Cress, Senior Planner Sarah Lewis, Economic Development Director Tom Galligani, and Deputy Police Chief Steve Carrabino.
“This does not include any resident appointee,” said Licensing Commission Chair Joseph P. Lynch, Jr. “Was it ever considered to appoint a resident or an advocate to that advisory?”
Mello said it was modeled on the advisory committee for medical establishments, which did not include a resident or advocate either.
“One thing that struck me about the meeting is that the Chair specifically asked if any residents or advocates had been brought into the conversation about any of these policies, and they answered no,” said Eric Schwartz, Somerville resident, local legalization activist, and co-founder of Farm Bug Co-op. “My question is why is the community not being involved in process? I’ve submitted a proposal for a working group on equity to work with city officials to ensure that Group A is brought in quickly, to ensure the rollout would happen quickly. The more the government tries to do it themselves without opening more of a dialogue with residents or advocates, the longer the rollout is going to take.”
The first application deadline is Friday April 5, after which the City will be accepting applications on a rolling basis. As of now, there is a one-time application fee of $900 and applications must be delivered electronically.