Massachusetts citizens seeking to exercise local control over the emboldened and aggressive commercial marijuana industry are seeking clear information on how they may act under the evolving law and developing regulations. The Cannabis Control Commission has issued this Guidance Document.
It takes a long time to get to the “Opt Out” guidance for communities wishing to avoid a new State mandate that they must host commercial marijuana establishments. The guidance initially spends a lot of time detailing all the different ways that marijuana will be produced, sold, and transported through our communities. While the marijuana compromise law of July 2017 is characterized as having added limits and restrictions on local control, this document is further evidence that the industry is dominating this process, placing marijuana-industry interests above the community norms which would discourage drug use.
There are a number of ways that local control needs to be strengthened. The notion that communities cannot restrict medical marijuana companies from converting to recreational commercial operations is of grave concern. It would enshrine the bait and switch tactics of the marijuana industry into law, tying the hands of people sympathetic to “medicinal” marijuana, but opposed to commercial marijuana. These companies came to towns pleading to help the sick. But now they get to cash in on commercial pot.
The Opt-Out guidance, referred to as a ban, still refers to requiring a generic bylaw or ordinance (simple majority), not to a zoning bylaw (super majority.) Towns and cities are confused by that, and some have supported bans by less than 66%, but more than 50%.
Actual language excerpted from guidance:
01-11 Guidance for Municipalities.
…On July 19, 2017, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill (H.3818) to amend Chapter 334 and the law it created, G.L. c.94G, as well as create additional laws relating to adult and medical use of marijuana. The bill became Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017 (“2017 Marijuana Act”). The 2017 Act built upon the foundation of the 2016 Act, creating a five-person Cannabis Control Commission, a twenty-five person Cannabis Advisory Board, as well as a hemp program to be run by the Department of Agricultural Resources. It also placed limits and restrictions on municipal control over the siting of marijuana establishments that will be discussed in this Guidance.
…Number of Marijuana Establishments in a Municipality: A municipality may restrict the number of marijuana establishments in its community, but it must follow certain procedures to do so. A municipality may pass a bylaw or ordinance limiting the number of marijuana retailers to 20% or more of the number of liquor licenses issued pursuant to G.L. c.138 §15 (commonly known as “package stores”) in that municipality. For example, if a municipality has 100 such liquor licenses, that municipality may set a maximum limit for 20 marijuana retailers. If the governing body of a municipality seeks to ban marijuana retailers from operating in the municipality, limit the number of them to fewer than 20% of the number of liquor licenses or
, there are two different procedures for proceeding, which depend on how the municipality voted on the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in 2016.
A list of each municipality voted can be reviewed here: (http://electionstats.state.ma.us/ballot_questions/view/2742/)
o If a municipality voted no on the initiative, then the governing body may limit or ban the number of marijuana establishments through by passing a bylaw or ordinance prior to December 31, 2019.
o If a municipality voted yes on the initiative, then the question must be posed to the people of the municipality at a regular or special election following a specific process and wording.