A demonstrator for legalizing cannabis businesses at the Randolph, Mass. Fall Fest on October 23, 2021. Credit: Zack Huffman / Grown In

Voters in two Massachusetts towns will have the chance in local elections today to reverse local bans on adult-use cannabis facilities that were created in response to state-wide legalization.

When adult-use cannabis was legalized in the Commonwealth by voters in 2016, Methuen residents had the added option of voting whether or not to ban the cannabis industry from their town. The ban narrowly passed, 11,869 to 11,050. One year later, Randolph voters banned all cannabis facilities 2,346 to 1,952.

Methuen is considered a suburb of Boston, despite being  in the northeast corner of the state, on the New Hampshire border, as is Haverhill. Randolph is another suburb of Boston about 20 minutes south of the city. 

Methuen and Randolph are among 112 towns and cities in Massachusetts that banned adult-use cannabis in the immediate wake of it being legalized across the state in a 2016 ballot question.

Andre Colon, owner of True House Cannabis, which is recently licensed and has yet to open a facility, is considering opening its first cultivation center in Methuen if the repeal is passed. He said that he had been lobbying with the Town Council this year, which ultimately had to approve the ballot question.

“I am working with the city of Methuen, but I am also working with another town,” he said, in terms of considering a facility site.

Regardless of how the vote goes, Colon could open a facility in Haverhill, which is one town over from Methuen. The downside is that the location he is looking at Haverhill would not be as large as what he could open in Methuen.

If True House chooses to site in Haverhill, which is already home to a cultivation site for PharmaCann, Methuen would lose out on impact fees and sales tax revenue. This possibility is likely very present for communities that are adjacent to towns with vibrant emerging cannabis businesses.

Randolph is located in the South Shore area, about 20 minutes north of Brockton which permitted seven adult-use dispensaries in the last two years. The community is close enough to others with adult-use retail that Randolph town leaders were aware of the revenue they might leave on the table.

“I think in the beginning when this whole thing came around everyone was afraid of retail marijuana but since then many towns have adopted it and have been making some serious money,” said Randolph council member Richard Brewer during the meeting where the question was approved. “[Nearby] Wareham is building a new public safety complex. Middleboro has nine host agreements. There is delivery so if we don’t adopt this they will be delivering it to Randolph residents. I think Randolph voters should have another shot at this, I would be in approval if we add retail to it.”

Towns and cities across the Commonwealth are starting to see dispensaries as a welcome addition to the community, according to David O’Brien, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association.

“Communities are looking to their left and to their right and they’re seeing that they’re on-boarding with cannabis companies,” he said. “The sky did not fall and these communities have embraced cannabis licenses of all types.”

Although O’Brien has not heard of any other communities that may soon be considering a ballot measure to repeal their ban he said he would not be surprised to hear about more in the near future.

“We’re excited about the fact that communities that at once thought it was not a good idea are now taking a look at opting in. It’s a small business opportunity for those seeking licenses that could easily grow into a medium or large business,” said O’Brien. “We are bullish on any community that wants to opt back in.”

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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...