The Honorable Daniel Donahue, House Chair
The Honorable Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy
State House, Boston

(Delivered Electronically)

Dear Chair Donahue, Chair Chang-Diaz, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,

On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our comments and concerns regarding the bills before your Committee for public hearing today.

Municipal officials have 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 G.L. Chapter 94G, Section 3(d).

The MMA believes that the bills before you today are overreaches that would usurp local authority. 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. The MMA strongly supports existing municipal contracts. 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.

As of April 16, 1,100 applicants have submitted all parts of their application package to the Cannabis Control Commission. This means 1,100 fully executed host community agreements could be on the line if the committee decides to advance H. 151 (An Act relative to host community agreements), H. 174 (An Act relative to host community agreements), S. 72 (An Act to ensure equitable host community agreements and increase small business opportunity), S. 67 (An Act relative to host community agreements), H. 169 (An Act relative to cannabis host agreements), or S. 77 (An Act to support partnerships between the cannabis industry and municipalities). Retroactively invalidating or altering 1,100 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.

The community impact fee portion of the host community agreements has always been controversial, and we agree it would create a more predictable negotiation process for all parties if this particular part of the host community agreements could be managed differently. However, H. 181/S. 68 (An Act encouraging transparency in host community agreements), and the bills mentioned above, would not do that. In reality, these bills would create a more burdensome, unpredictable process for all parties, including the Cannabis Control Commission.

The MMA would like to work with members of this committee on alternatives to the bills before you today 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 look forward to working closely with you on the further development of this matter.

Thank you for your interest in these very important local government matters. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Brittney Franklin at 617-426-7272 or at any time.


Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO