The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Senate Chair
The Honorable Daniel M. Donahue, House Chair
The Honorable Joanne M. Comerford
The Honorable Joseph F. Wagner
The Honorable Ryan C. Fattman
The Honorable Mathew J. Muratore
Conference Committee on H. 4800 and S. 2823
State House, Boston

Dear Distinguished Members of the Conference Committee:

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to share comments on the important effort to promote social equity and foster economic empowerment in the cannabis industry. As you work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of An Act relative to equity in the cannabis industry (H. 4800 and S. 2823), we urge you to ensure the final bill protects existing contracts, preserves the ability to negotiate community impact fees on behalf of taxpayers, and retains necessary incentives for recreational marijuana host communities. Recognizing that cities and towns are vital stakeholders in the successful development of this industry in Massachusetts, the MMA would like to offer the municipal perspective as you work diligently to prepare a final bill for consideration.

Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund
We greatly appreciate the provisions included in both the House and Senate bills that advance social equity as a key priority. We applaud the efforts in each proposal to capitalize a new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund. One of the primary barriers in the cannabis industry is access to capital to many entrepreneurs who have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, and this fund provides a needed step toward correcting this. The new Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund would provide critically-needed grants and loans for economic empowerment and social equity participants. As such, we commend both chambers for including this important provision in the legislation, and the MMA supports the House’s funding level, which would transfer 20% of the Marijuana Regulation Fund to the Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund annually.

Host Community Agreements
We have strong concerns regarding language in the bills that present potential retroactive impacts on existing host community agreements. As you know, cities and towns led the way in deciding whether to host commercial marijuana enterprises and have negotiated in good faith to execute host community agreements. More than 1,000 such contracts have been put in place, which has since established a platform for growth of the industry. Constitutional tenets protect existing contracts from statutory encroachment, and such provisions would invite extensive litigation and rejection in the long term. We urge you to clarify this in the final bill with language to ensure existing contracts are allowed to continue until their expiration. We also urge you to avoid overregulation of host community agreements by the Cannabis Control Commission, as these agreements should reflect local needs, and should not be subject to a one-size-misfits-all overreach by a state administrative agency.

Community Impact Fees
There is a significant level of disagreement around how to quantify and recognize community impact fees, exacerbated by the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry’s campaign to downplay the direct and indirect impact of the industry on municipalities. While the state is still in the beginning stages of developing the cannabis field, it is problematic to eliminate these fees while we are still uncovering the true costs of this rapidly growing industry. Further, restricting or eliminating the 3% community impact fee would reduce one of the principal incentives for local adoption of recreational cannabis sales. Incumbent businesses would have a permanent advantage in the marketplace, and new entrants would face the steeper challenge of competing with fewer new locations across the state. We support the Senate bill’s provisions, which would allow communities to renegotiate the fees in subsequent contracts. The MMA continues to believe the best method of reaching agreement is to allow the parties to do so directly, without state or industry interference.

Social Consumption Sites
The MMA is supportive of the provisions that would allow municipalities to authorize on-site consumption of cannabis. We appreciate the inclusion of opt-in language in both the House and Senate bills, and would like to stress the importance of local control in the integration of this new and burgeoning aspect to the recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts.

We support the provisions in the bills that would allow for expungement of prior offenses related to the possession or distribution to marijuana in amounts that have subsequently been decriminalized. We know that the War on Drugs disproportionately impacted people of color, and expanding expungement efforts will help further the goals of equity and justice. The MMA supports the language of the House bill for its simplicity, but is encouraged by expungement efforts in both bills.

The MMA supports and appreciates the shared goal of the companion bills to advance equity in the cannabis industry. However, overregulation would create an uncertain landscape for cities and towns that are working to successfully navigate the burgeoning cannabis industry. We respectfully ask that as you develop a final bill you support the critically important social equity provisions, avoid interference with existing contracts, protect municipal authority to negotiate community impact fees, and exclude undue and cumbersome regulatory burdens on municipalities.

Thank you very much for your consideration and attention to this important issue for the Commonwealth and our cities and towns. If you have any questions regarding our comments or require additional information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ali DiMatteo at 617-426-7272, ext. 124, or at any time.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO