The Honorable Aaron Michlewitz
House Committee on Ways and Means, Chair
The Honorable Michael Rodrigues
Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Chair
State House, Boston

(Delivered Electronically)

Dear Chair Michlewitz and Chair Rodrigues,

On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our comments and strong concerns regarding two companion bills that have been reported out of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy and sent to your respective Committees. The two bills – H. 4440 and S. 2660, An Act relative to host community agreements, would usurp the established authority of local government, likely invoke legal challenges, and create a more burdensome process for all parties involved with the cannabis industry in Massachusetts.

Municipal officials have long been on the front line of implementing the Act to Ensure Safe Access to Marijuana (Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017), and have a responsibility to ensure that it is done in a balanced way that maximizes the benefits of the new industry while giving appropriate consideration and weight to health and safety concerns, and possible adverse impacts on residents, business, neighborhoods, economic development plans, or other important factors. As part of the implementation process, municipalities and private recreational marijuana establishments have been negotiating terms in their host community agreements pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 94G, Section 3(d).

Despite the good intentions from supporters of the two bills, it’s the MMA’s position that H. 4440 and S. 2660 are both overreaches that would usurp local authority and catalyze litigation concerning existing contracts executed in good faith. The MMA strongly supports these existing municipal contracts. Contracting between local governments and private entities is a long-established practice and the changes reflected in these bills could have a long-term impact on the ability of municipalities to negotiate on behalf of the public, even outside the marijuana industry. Some examples include private development contracts or Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreements, host community agreements with the gaming industry, contracts with the movie industry, cable franchising agreements, and mitigation contracts with industrial and housing developers. In this context, municipally negotiated host community agreements are an extension of common practice.

More than one thousand applicants have already submitted their application package to the Cannabis Control Commission. This means more than one thousand fully executed host community agreements could be on the line if these bills advance. Retroactively invalidating or altering existing contracts, which were negotiated in good faith on behalf of the public, would certainly invite challenges that these bills violate the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Contractual disputes between two parties should be the sole authority of the judiciary, and it would not be appropriate to give the Cannabis Control Commission this authority over municipalities. This would be inconsistent with municipal constitutional Home Rule and municipal contracting authority.

We understand there are numerous interests that legislators aim to address in relation to the burgeoning cannabis industry. In fact, the MMA appreciates the effort and language offered to create a Social Equity Trust Fund, which would provide grants and loans to Economic Empowerment or Social Equity participants. This funding would provide desperately needed resources to many entrepreneurs who have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, an area we hope is a central focus of upcoming legislative efforts. Nevertheless, the components in these two bills related to host community agreements make the measures untenable and unworkable for cities and towns and their residents.

We understand the community impact fee portion of the host community agreements has become controversial. We understand this concern and believe it might create a more predictable negotiation process for all parties if this particular part of the host community agreements could be managed differently in the future. However, H. 4440 and S. 2660 would not do that. These bills would create a more burdensome, unpredictable process for all parties, including the Cannabis Control Commission.

The MMA would like to work with you and your staffs to develop alternatives to these bills and to find a framework that all stakeholders can support. We believe there is a solution that would create a much more predictable process for everyone, while allowing communities to continue to serve the public interest. We welcome this opportunity and look forward to working closely with you on the further development of this important matter for municipalities and the Commonwealth.

Thank you for your continued work on this and other important local government matters. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Director Dave Koffman at 617-426-7272 or at any time.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO

The Honorable Ronald J. Mariano, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen E. Spilka, Senate President