Grow, Gift, Repair

#MUNICIPAL #GUIDANCE: Somerville Part 2

The process, in a nutshell, looks like this: First, the applicant submits an application for a Host Community Agreement (HCA) to city, which is reviewed by mayor’s Marijuana Advisory Committee (MAC). The MAC will make a recommendation to the mayor on who should get an HCA, and once an applicant has secured an HCA they can apply to the Licensing Commission. Once a license has been granted, the application moves to the Planning Board or Zoning Board for a special permit. With an HCA, license, and permit in hand, the applicant can proceed through the state process with the Cannabis Control Commission, and eventually begin construction on their facility.

George Proakis, executive director for the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, said at a June 27 City Council meeting that he anticipates recreational establishments opening in late 2019 or early 2020, depending on how much construction the applicants need to open.

Ballantyne is acting mayor

In order to comply with conflict of interest law requirements, Mayor Joe Curtatone has recused himself from all matters related to the licensing and permitting of recreational marijuana establishments in Somerville.

According to City Spokeswoman Denise Taylor, Curtatone was recently informed that a recreational marijuana establishment was a potential applicant for the property at 561-567 McGrath Highway, which is currently owned by the Cosmo Curtatone Revocable Trust (established by Curtatone’s late father). Curtatone’s mother and sister are co-trustees, and though Curtatone is neither a trustee nor a current beneficiary of the Trust, and he has no involvement in the management of the property, it is conceivable that he could become a beneficiary of the property in the future.

Massachusetts conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees, including elected officials, from participating in matters “in which to his knowledge he, his immediate family or partner, a business organization in which he is serving as officer, director, trustee, partner or employee, or any person or organization with whom he is negotiating or has any arrangement concerning prospective employment, has a financial interest” (MGL c. 268A s. 19).

After being informed of the potential interest in the McGrath Highway property, Taylor said, Curtatone immediately recused himself and began the process of filing a Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest form. The form was filed on April 17 and applies going forward as long as the recusal requirements exist. (The potential applicant for 561-567 McGrath Highway has since applied to site a recreational medical marijuana facility there and is now no longer a “potential” applicant but rather a current applicant.)

City Council President Katjana Ballantyne is now the acting mayor on this issue. In addition to other responsibilities, she will be responsible for signing (or not signing) HCAs.

Taylor confirmed that there has been no similar conflicts of interest regarding medical marijuana identified. Should any issue arise related to the licensing and permitting of medical marijuana facilities that in any way would appear to present a conflict of interest, recusal needs would be reviewed and any appropriate recusal would be made.