Kamani Jefferson, a Statehouse lobbyist and president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, said he believes fear is driving some local communities in their zoning decisions.
“Do you do this for alcohol?” he said. “Do you do this for tobacco?”
State law requires a buffer zone of 500 feet between schools and any marijuana establishment, although local communities can opt to reduce it. Overall, the bulk of zoning regulations dealing with marijuana facilities is left up to local government.
Jefferson argued that limiting the areas where marijuana establishments can locate could drive up rent prices and, in turn, impact the price of the product. It could also encourage the continuation of black market sales by making the purchase of legal marijuana inconvenient and inaccessible, he said.
Jefferson said zoning restrictions on marijuana facilities vary from state to state. Some Colorado, Oregon and California communities limit these businesses to industrial zone while others allow them to operate in high-foot traffic areas. In fact, the high visibility and easy access to marijuana retailers in the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado came up during zoning discussions in Fitchburg.
Massachusetts is no different in this regard, he said. Jefferson pointed to two medical marijuana dispensaries in busy areas owned by Sira Naturals: one on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and another in Davis Square in Somerville.