But even as business owners jockey for the first licenses to legally sell and grow recreational marijuana, many cities and towns have been yanking out the welcome mat.
More than half of Massachusetts communities and all but five on the South Shore have placed bans or moratoriums on adult-use marijuana sales. It’s a decision that industry leaders say could hurt the budding business and will deprive cities and towns of hundreds of thousands a year in new tax revenue.
Scituate on Tuesday became the latest South Shore town to ban retail pot shops, leaving Quincy, Rockland, Halifax, Plymouth and Marshfield as possible locations for would-be retailers.
The state Cannabis Control Commission controls retail and cultivation licenses, but cities and towns are deciding where and whether to allow retailers to set up shop.
The Legislature revised the voter-approved ballot question, which legalized marijuana sales to adults 21 and older, to give cities and towns the authority to keep retailers out of the community. In towns where the majority of voters opposed the state ballot question to legalize retail marijuana sales, governing bodies like town meeting or selectmen can ban retailers. A ban requires an election referendum in towns where the majority of voters supported the state ballot question to legalize pot.
Lawmakers also increased the amount of sales tax marijuana retailers will pay to cities and towns to 6 percent of gross sales, but nearly half of Massachusetts 351 cities and towns have resisted the promise of additional tax revenue.
Jim Borghesani of the Marijuana Policy Project said those towns are missing out on a huge revenue opportunity.
“It’s likely that the average retail cannabis store is going to return easily more than $100,000 to the town in new taxes annually and the figure will likely be much higher than that — 6 percent total local tax off of gross sales,” he said.