Grow, Gift, Repair

Talks over HCAs at the last CCC meeting part 3

Because no law has been drafted, it remains unclear how commission oversight of host community agreements would affect existing deals that exceed limits.

“The local approval process has been a top barrier for small businesses without connections, and [us] being able to review the agreements puts everyone on equal footing,” said Commissioner Shaleen Title, who had previously pushed the commission to review the contracts.

But two key lawmakers who head the Legislature’s marijuana policy committee reiterated their previous insistence that the commission already has the legal authority to regulate the agreements, leaving the fate of any proposed legislation in doubt.

“We have plenty of work to do other than keep going back and adding to a law that is already clear that they have this authority,” said Representative Mark Cusack, a committee cochairman. “They literally invented [the problem],” he added.

Cusack said the commissioners should simply vote to overturn their previous decision not to review the agreements.

But industry members said oversight of the agreements is badly needed, as businesses are frequently being shaken down by municipalities.

“No other businesses are treated this way,” said David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association. “Communities have been saying at the 11th hour before opening, ‘You need to pay the ransom or you don’t open.’ ”

Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, argued that cities and towns have extensive powers to negotiate the terms of hosting marijuana businesses.

“It’s not in the public interest [for municipalities] to have a smaller role in being compensated in the accommodation of a business or commercial interest,” Beckwith said.

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the commission said it will finalize draft regulations for social consumption, home delivery, and any other changes for adult-use and medical marijuana by April, according to a timetable presented by Shawn Collins, executive director of the commission.

Public hearings would be held before any final regulations would be approved and submitted to the secretary of state in June. A pilot program for social consumption venues in interested towns and cities will seek participants in coming weeks, officials said.