MRCC

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TWIW: Update on HCAs

Now, in a decision that puts new judicial weight behind the commission’s decision, Essex County Superior Court Judge Timothy Q. Feeley has agreed that state law does not grant the commission explicit power to review host community agreements.

“As the [commission] argues, it has been its consistent position that it has no role under [state law] in reviewing the contents of HCAs, and the court agrees,” the judge wrote in a ruling dismissing the commission as a defendant in the Mederi case. “The statute requires as part of a license application the inclusion of a certification that an HCA has been executed. The statute gives the [commission] no further role in looking beyond the certification to the contents of the HCA.”

The ruling is a setback to advocates who have argued that municipalities are routinely (and unfairly) shaking down operators for large sums, and keeping smaller and disenfranchised players out of the industry. It’s also a setback to the very lawmakers who came up with the cap on payments in the first place, as they have argued that the existing law already gives the commission authority over the deals.

The judge’s decision doesn’t completely close the door on further appeals or challenges to the commission’s stance on not reviewing host community agreements, such as the one brought forward by the Massachusetts Growers Advocacy Council, but it sets a precedent that could be difficult to overcome. The commission declined to comment.

However, the commission recently voted to seek explicit authority over host community agreements from the state Legislature. And indeed, several bills are pending that would require the commission to review host community agreements, including one proposed by state Senator Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat.

“I think it’s important that local communities get to have a big say in these [marijuana] facilities,” Cyr explained, “but you have to have standards around that control.”

Cyr said municipalities should be free to work out the conditions under which a marijuana shop can operate within their borders, but said the state should set basic parameters, or a standardized contract, to provide consistency for businesses and local officials. He noted that the state already plays a similar role when it comes to health codes and other such regulations.

Cyr is also worried that expensive local fees could freeze out smaller companies and those participating in the state’s equity and empowerment programs, which are trying to boost minorities and other entrepreneurs affected by the war on drugs.

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Now, in a decision that puts new judicial weight behind the commission’s decision, Essex County Superior Court Judge Timothy Q. Feeley has agreed that state law does not grant the commission explicit power to review host community agreements.

“As the [commission] argues, it has been its consistent position that it has no role under [state law] in reviewing the contents of HCAs, and the court agrees,” the judge wrote in a ruling dismissing the commission as a defendant in the Mederi case. “The statute requires as part of a license application the inclusion of a certification that an HCA has been executed. The statute gives the [commission] no further role in looking beyond the certification to the contents of the HCA.”

The ruling is a setback to advocates who have argued that municipalities are routinely (and unfairly) shaking down operators for large sums, and keeping smaller and disenfranchised players out of the industry. It’s also a setback to the very lawmakers who came up with the cap on payments in the first place, as they have argued that the existing law already gives the commission authority over the deals.

The judge’s decision doesn’t completely close the door on further appeals or challenges to the commission’s stance on not reviewing host community agreements, such as the one brought forward by the Massachusetts Growers Advocacy Council, but it sets a precedent that could be difficult to overcome. The commission declined to comment.

However, the commission recently voted to seek explicit authority over host community agreements from the state Legislature. And indeed, several bills are pending that would require the commission to review host community agreements, including one proposed by state Senator Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat.

“I think it’s important that local communities get to have a big say in these [marijuana] facilities,” Cyr explained, “but you have to have standards around that control.”

Cyr said municipalities should be free to work out the conditions under which a marijuana shop can operate within their borders, but said the state should set basic parameters, or a standardized contract, to provide consistency for businesses and local officials. He noted that the state already plays a similar role when it comes to health codes and other such regulations.

Cyr is also worried that expensive local fees could freeze out smaller companies and those participating in the state’s equity and empowerment programs, which are trying to boost minorities and other entrepreneurs affected by the war on drugs.