Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Just hours before the end of the formal legislative session on July 31, a House-Senate conference committee released a comprehensive cannabis regulation bill that was quickly passed by both the House and Senate.
The compromise bill (S. 3096) comes after more than a month of negotiations between the branches and represents the most significant changes to Massachusetts cannabis law since the legalization of adult-use marijuana in 2017.
The bill includes a number of provisions affecting municipal host community agreements. It would eliminate the inclusion of community impact fees in host community agreements after the first eight years of a licensee’s operation, and licensees would be allowed to bring a breach-of-contract action against the host community if they believe the community impact fees are not reasonably related to the actual costs imposed upon the city or town.
Language in the final bill could retroactively subject existing host community agreements to review by the Cannabis Control Commission, a major concern for the MMA and local officials. This is due to the CCC’s new authority for review and approval — not only at license application but also at each license renewal. Given that more than 1,000 host community agreements are currently in effect, this language would likely result in costly litigation for municipalities.
The final bill would give the CCC 90 days to review each host community agreement after receipt, a provision that the MMA argues would cause unnecessary delays and create disincentives to bringing the legal cannabis industry to many cities and towns in Massachusetts. The MMA has expressed strong concerns about these provisions in letters to the House and Senate, as well as the conference committee.
The legislation calls on the Cannabis Control Commission to put forth regulations establishing minimum standards for host communities to promote and encourage full participation in the cannabis industry by people disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. Municipalities would need to establish procedures or policies along these lines in order to enter into an agreement with a marijuana establishment or medical marijuana treatment center. Cities and towns currently under agreement with marijuana establishments would be required to establish such standards and policies, or risk monetary penalties totaling any received community impact fees from marijuana establishments.
The bill includes several provisions that were strongly supported by the MMA, including the capitalization of a new Cannabis Equity Fund and other measures addressing the deep societal inequities worsened by the War on Drugs. Individuals with previous criminal records related to the possession or cultivation of amounts of marijuana that have since been decriminalized would be able to petition for their expungement under the bill.
The bill would also mandate that 15% of the revenue collected in the Marijuana Regulation Fund be transferred to a Cannabis Equity Trust Fund to encourage participation in the industry through grants and loans to entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and related enforcement. The bill also exempts marijuana from the excise tax, a major source of revenue for the Marijuana Regulation Fund.
The bill would incentivize municipalities to host marijuana retailers that are social equity businesses, by distributing 1% of the total sales received by such businesses back to cities and towns that host them. Each municipality that hosts at least one social equity retailer would qualify to receive this funding.
There’s also a provision relating to a campaign to educate the public on the risks of marijuana, as well as a provision directing the CCC to study the possession and consumption of medical marijuana at schools by students with valid registration cards.
The bill is now before Gov. Charlie Baker, who has 10 days — until Aug. 11 — to sign it, veto it, or return it with amendments. The MMA has already weighed in with the Baker administration on its concerns.