Businesses will have to navigate local ordinances. In addition to the usual zoning and planning requirements, some municipalities have voted to either ban marijuana businesses outright or place a moratorium on marijuana businesses, which can last until the end of 2018. The goal of the moratorium is to give municipalities time to come up with regulations before businesses can open.
Based on rough estimates from groups tracking these moratoriums, approximately 40 communities have banned all marijuana businesses. Around 70 communities have a moratorium.
Amherst failed to pass a moratorium, but did vote to limit the number of retail stores allowed. Springfield is considering a moratorium. Chicopee passed a moratorium. The Holyoke City Council did not establish a moratorium, but instead established zoning rules to regulate where businesses can locate.
Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said the Cannabis Control Commission’s guidelines have given municipalities a “greater sense of clarity” as cities and towns decide what types of bylaws and regulations they want to pass. Municipalities will now have to act to draft and pass those regulations. For example, towns can limit the number of marijuana businesses or where businesses are sited.
“Things are coming closer into better focus, but there’s still a lot of action that dozens and dozens of communities will need to take in terms of passing updated bylaws, ordinances or rules before the licensing process is triggered later this year,” Beckwith said.
The Cannabis Control Commission’s draft regulations lay out in minute detail the requirements for everything from growing to testing to packaging to selling marijuana.
The Cannabis Control Commission, the body tasked with overseeing Massachusetts’ new legal marijuana industry, voted to approve draft regulations on everything from licensing to advertising.
Although eight states have legalized recreational marijuana use, Massachusetts has a few factors in its laws that are unique.
First, the law requires the state to help communities that have been “disproportionately impacted” by enforcement of marijuana laws. The Cannabis Control Commission defined these areas based on statistics including arrest data, incarceration data, unemployment and income. Marijuana businesses run by people who live in these areas will have lower licensing fees and access to coaching both during the licensing process and during the early stages of their business. State officials are working with the private financial sector and other partners to determine what kinds of opportunities for financing exist for people who are not wealthy but who want to get into the marijuana business.
“We want to get out there and let people know what opportunities are, offer them assistance, and let people understand and successfully navigate the licensing process,” Hoffman said. “And if they are successful, give them coaching and guidance and help to help them be successful business people.”
Massachusetts also is unique in its development of a social consumption program, which lets businesses allow people to buy and consume marijuana on site – either in a marijuana cafe or as part of a separate business, like a yoga studio or movie theater.
There are also provisions to help small businesses and farmers – for example, tiered licensing with cheaper licenses for smaller growers, or the possibility of co-ops, where groups of growers can join together and apply for a single license.