MMA tracks local activity in preparation for retail marijuana

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Local officials across the state have been actively considering their options related to the emerging recreational marijuana marketplace. The MMA has been tracking local moratoriums, bans, bylaws and zoning amendments, retail caps, and local tax rates being considered or adopted by municipalities.
 
As The Beacon went to press, 133 communities had implemented moratoriums on recreational marijuana establishments. A moratorium is a temporary measure intended to give cities and towns additional time to evaluate and implement local measures related to recreational marijuana. In particular, local officials wanted an opportunity to review the final state regulations, which were just approved on March 6, before taking action.
 
Moratoriums in towns, which take the form of a bylaw, must be approved by the Attorney General’s Office. In its approval letters, the office has indicated that a moratorium extending through the end of 2018 is considered reasonable, though the office would consider proposed bylaws to extend a moratorium into 2019 in cases where the town can “provide a rational basis” for needing additional time.
 
Forty-six of the local moratoriums are due to expire on July 30, while the largest number, 63, are set to expire on Dec. 31.
 
Some communities have enacted a permanent ban on recreational marijuana businesses. In municipalities where voters had opposed Question 4 in November 2016, a ban can be enacted by town meeting or city council. Other municipalities must hold a ballot vote to implement a ban.
 
Forty-five communities have approved a ban of the retail sale, growth, manufacture, and/or testing of recreational marijuana products, though not all have banned all aspects of recreational marijuana. For example, Medway has banned recreational marijuana retailers, and will require special permits to grow, test, and manufacture.
 
Municipalities are also working on zoning and bylaw amendments, retail caps for marijuana establishments, and adopting local-option tax rates of up to 3 percent on marijuana businesses.
 
While many municipalities are drafting amended zoning and bylaws, only about 5 percent of Massachusetts cities and towns have adopted zoning changes.
 
Municipalities are allowed to cap the number of recreational marijuana retailers at a number representing at least 20 percent of existing package store licenses within the city or town. Lowering the retail cap requires a ballot vote. To date, only seven towns have approved retail caps.
 
With the Cannabis Control Commission recently releasing final regulations, more municipalities are expected to take steps to finalize their rules and procedures for recreational marijuana.