Mass. Cannabis Control Commission member Ave Callender Concepcion speaks during the Commission’s online meeting on Nov. 18, 2021.

Massachusetts cannabis regulators removed their recommendation that municipalities should prioritize approval for social equity applicants at its Nov. 18 meeting, suggesting that towns and cities leave the social equity gatekeeping to state regulators. 

The change comes almost a year after Revolutionary Clinics dropped their lawsuit against the City of Cambridge. The medical cannabis dispensary was opposing a two-year moratorium from Cambridge against non-social equity license applicants.

Aside from local licensing, this change in recommendations comes amid ongoing legal action over host community agreements. The state originally allowed host communities to impose impact fees on prospective cannabis facilities.

The changes also come amid ongoing litigation over those host community fees from Stem, a dispensary that sued its host city, Haverhill in state court. So far, that case has survived a motion to dismiss and the city has filed its response, opposing the lawsuit.

CCC member Ave Callender Concepcion noted that the state regulatory board was already prioritizing approvals for social equity applicants, especially delivery operators, which may diminish the need for local communities to weigh in.

“Municipalities should consider the economic impacts of such restrictions as municipalities consider the operations of delivery licensees within their borders,” she said. “They should also be aware that any bylaws and ordinances would need to satisfy the local control provisions.”

In terms of delivery, Concepcion also cautioned municipalities that they were limited by what they could lawfully prohibit.

“A municipality can adopt a bylaw or ordinance imposing reasonable safeguards on licensing activities associated with delivery,” said Concepcion. “This can include restrictions on the time, place and manner of operations within its borders, however the bylaw or ordinance must not conflict with the commission’s laws.”

The CCC also recommended against imposing new restrictions on existing cannabis businesses that might be working with new delivery or courier businesses.

“A municipality is cautioned against imposing conditions or requiring fees in its agreement with a marijuana retailer that impact the operations of a marijuana courier unless there is also a host community agreement memorializing those conditions or fees with a marijuana courier,” said Concepcion.

In the same monthly meeting, the CCC approved five additional provisional licenses for delivery operators. This follows the provisional approval of the first delivery applicant last month. All six recipients are seeking licenses to exclusively delivery as opposed to cultivate and manufacture. Delivery licenses are restricted to social equity applicants for three years following the first issuance of a final licenses, which is expected in the next few months.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...