Cannabis Control Commission Chair Steve Hoffman (left) and Commissioner Kay Doyle meet with the MMA Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration on Nov. 7, 2017.

The Cannabis Control Commission has approved a guidance document regarding host community agreements, but rejected a proposal to include a review of certain terms in host community agreements as part of the CCC’s licensing process.

The CCC released a draft of the host community agreement guidance for public comment on July 26. The MMA submitted comments on Aug. 6, arguing that such guidance is premature, as it may limit the ability of municipalities to contract for non-fee-based payments.

A host community agreement is a contract negotiated between a municipality and a marijuana establishment that includes all terms necessary for the marijuana establishment to operate in the municipality. In order to obtain a license, a marijuana establishment must, as part of the application process, submit a certification signed by the contracting authorities for the municipality and the applicant indicating that they have executed a host community agreement.

Since Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana, municipalities have been faced with a number of decisions on local actions, some of which include enacting zoning bylaws and amendments, whether to cap the number of marijuana retailers, and deciding on a local-option tax of up to 3 percent on marijuana sales – all of which must be done under the requirements of the open meeting law. Once the municipality is ready to negotiate a host community agreement with a marijuana establishment, this must also be done in accordance with the open meeting law.

The process of making thoughtful decisions on this new area of commerce takes time, and the MMA argues that municipalities have been acting in a timely manner. As of Aug. 23, 112 completed applications have been submitted to the CCC for review.

After a lengthy discussion, the CCC decided at its Aug. 9 meeting to adopt the draft guidance with minimal technical changes. The guidance document focuses on the acceptable assessments allowed on marijuana, marijuana products and marijuana establishments.

At the CCC’s next meeting, on Aug. 23, commissioners discussed the ability of the CCC to review certain terms in each host community agreement prior to the issuance of a final license for the marijuana establishment to operate.

Commissioners agreed to direct CCC staff to request host community agreements from all applicants and to use public records requests to obtain the agreements that are not voluntarily provided. But commissioners voted, 4-1, against a motion to review certain terms of host community agreements as a prerequisite to the issuance of a license.

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