MMA tracks local activity in preparation for retail marijuana

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With legalized, adult-use marijuana on the horizon, the MMA has been tracking local activity related to this new area of commerce.
Local actions include moratoriums, bans, bylaws/ordinances and zoning amendments, retail caps, and the adoption of a local-option tax.
In order to allow time for local planning efforts, 169 communities implemented moratoriums on recreational marijuana establishments. Fifty of these moratoriums will have expired by July 1, however, and all but two will expire by Dec. 31.
A moratorium is a temporary measure intended to give cities and towns additional time to examine the state law and regulations regarding recreational marijuana and to make any appropriate decisions.
Moratoriums in towns, which take the form of a zoning bylaw, must be approved by town meeting (following a public hearing) and by the Attorney General’s Office. The attorney general has indicated that a moratorium extending through the end of 2018 is considered reasonable. In two cases, because the towns could “provide a rational basis” for needing additional time, the office approved the extension of a moratorium into 2019.
Eighty-four 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 marijuana retailers, and will require special permits for businesses that seek to grow, test or manufacture marijuana products.
In municipalities where voters had opposed Question 4 in November 2016, a ban on recreational marijuana businesses can be enacted by the legislative body (town meeting or city council/board of aldermen). Municipalities where voters approved Question 4 must also obtain approval from voters at a regular municipal election in order to implement a ban on marijuana establishments.
Municipalities are also working on zoning and bylaw amendments, caps on the number of marijuana retailers, and adopting a local-option tax of up to 3 percent on marijuana retail sales.
A number of municipalities are drafting zoning amendments and bylaws. The Attorney General’s Office has approved 60 zoning bylaws that allow for marijuana establishments, with about 20 more pending.
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 has specified 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 local ballot vote. To date, only 20 towns have approved retail caps.
Licensing applications for marijuana retail and product manufacturers became available on June 1.
For more information about the recreational marijuana law, visit​
• See related story: MMA explains local role in emerging marijuana marketplace