Cannabis Control Commission
ATTN: Director of Constituent Services
Union Station
2 Washington Square, Worcester

RE: Draft Revised Regulations: 935 CMR 500.00 Adult Use of Marijuana and 935 CMR 501.000 Medical Use of Marijuana

Dear Chair Hoffman and Members of the Cannabis Control Commission,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer comments on the draft revised Adult Use of Marijuana regulations (935 CMR 500), and draft revised Medical Use of Marijuana regulations (935 CMR 501). The MMA would like to express our appreciation to Commission members and staff for hosting a virtual public hearing on August 3 and for the hard work done by the Commission in inviting thoughtful stakeholder input throughout the drafting process.

In order to serve the public as effectively as possible, cities and towns need effective and workable regulations governing the use of marijuana in Massachusetts. Municipal officials are on the front line of implementing 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 this industry, while giving appropriate consideration and weight to health and safety concerns, and possible adverse impacts on residents, business, neighborhoods, economic development plans, and other important factors. We offer the following comments and look forward to working closely with the Commission towards safe, workable, and effective regulations.

Buffer Zones

The MMA expresses concern with the changes proposed to 935 CMR 500.110(3) on buffer zones. The draft regulations attempt to change the fundamentals on how buffer zones are measured. In some cases, this change in measurement could result in significant distance discrepancies. Chapter 94G Section 5 broadly laid out a 500-foot buffer requirement between marijuana establishments and public or private K-12 schools. Attempts at changing the way this measurement is defined now could lead to communities actually altering the buffer zones to account for large K-12 campuses, with the ironic effect of further reducing the siting availability for marijuana establishments.

Further, communities have relied on the current regulations for over two years. Many communities have incorporated buffer zone language into local bylaws or ordinances, which would require a 2/3rds vote of the town or city’s legislative body to change. Municipalities which have welcomed recreational marijuana by changing their bylaws and ordinances to incorporate marijuana establishments into their existing zoning framework would be faced with an additional hurdle if they need to amend their existing language, potentially causing delays in siting new marijuana establishments (Town Meetings convene just once or twice a year, for example). In addition, municipalities may be faced with challenges from marijuana establishments wishing to be sited differently under the new provisions. Adding language regarding an “impassable barrier” to the buffer zone measurement would only serve to further confuse the siting process. We urge the Commission to reconsider these changes.

Further Expansion of Hardship Cultivation Registration

The MMA expresses concern regarding the expansion of the hardship cultivation registration within 935 CMR 501.020(7). Under existing regulations, law enforcement must do their best to evaluate whether a qualifying patient or registered caregiver has exceeded the 60-day supply of product. While we understand the reasoning for allowing flexibility in this measurement, we are increasingly concerned that this further expansion and allowance of up to 500 square feet of cultivation area could further the illicit market, due to the lack of clear standards for law enforcement to use as a baseline to determine lawfulness. The amount of product cultivated in 500 square feet could easily exceed a 60-day supply, depending on the layout, design and use of space. In particular, we are concerned about the lack of local touch points in the form of building code checks associated with this large of a grow area, especially regarding compliance with fire and safety codes.

MMA Supports Comments from the Municipal Legal and Public Safety Community

In addition to the issues raised in this letter, the MMA also supports any comments and recommendations from the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association and municipal public safety officials. It is the MMA’s hope that these regulation amendments will be developed and implemented in a deliberate way to ensure balanced and long-term stability and success for all stakeholders. We are a willing partner and resource for you as you finalize these important changes.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments regarding the draft regulations. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your staff contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin at 617-426-7272 or bfranklin@mma.org at any time.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO