MMA tracks local activity in preparation for retail marijuana

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As towns hold town meetings and elections this spring, the MMA is tracking local activities related to the emerging recreational marijuana marketplace, such as moratoriums, bans, bylaws and zoning amendments, retail caps, and the adoption of local-option taxes.
As The Beacon went to press, 156 communities had implemented moratoriums on recreational marijuana establishments. A moratorium is a temporary measure intended to give cities and towns additional time to evaluate the final state regulations on recreational marijuana and to consider and implement local measures.
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, 74, are set to expire on Dec. 31. The remainder will expire between July 30 and the end of the year, with the exception of two that extend into early 2019.
In municipalities where voters had opposed Question 4 in November 2016, a ban on recreational marijuana businesses can be enacted by town meeting or city council. Other municipalities must hold a ballot vote to implement a ban.
Sixty communities have voted to ban the retail sale, growth, manufacture, and/or testing of recreational marijuana products, though not all have banned every aspect of marijuana business activity. For example, Medway has banned recreational marijuana retailers, and will require special permits for businesses that seek to grow, test and manufacture.
Municipalities are also working on zoning and bylaw amendments, caps on the number of marijuana retailers, and adopting local-option tax rates of up to 3 percent on marijuana businesses.
A number of municipalities are drafting zoning amendments and bylaws, though only about 11 percent of Massachusetts cities and towns have adopted zoning changes.
Municipalities are allowed to cap the number of recreational marijuana retailers at 20 percent of the number of package store licenses within the city or town. The Cannabis Control Commission recently amended its municipal guidance to specify that cities and towns must “round up” when calculating retail caps, if the figure is not a whole number. Lowering the retail cap requires a ballot vote.  To date, only 10 towns have approved retail caps.
For more information about the state’s recreational marijuana law and regulations, visit