Frequently Asked Questions
By municipal officials and active citizens:
What MUST a municipality do about local cannabis commerce?
Nothing is necessary, but it would be prudent for cities and towns to take formal steps to claim its share of the new revenue, should any become available by the siting of local marijuana establishments.
Shouldn't they wait until the final regulations come out in March?
Nothing in the final regulations will enlarge or diminish the rights or responsibilities of municipalities as laid out in the statute. If there is a drive to enact new bylaws, those controls should be in effect when people start filing applications to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), perhaps as early as April 1, 2018.
What are a town’s options? A menu of options is listed below. But keep in mind two fundaments of cannabis regulation, regardless of how a town chooses to respond to local applicants for cannabis licensing:
- In regulating the cannabis industry and its participants -- from producers to distributors, in all types of marijuana operations -- the CCC is doing the heavy lifting. This agency not only makes detailed rules (the draft regulations run over a hundred pages), but will be enforcing them as well.
- Before any marijuana establishment can be licensed, it must reach a "Community Host Agreement" with the municipality "stipulating responsibilities," a term broad enough to encompass the imposition of special conditions or to require any special promises from a marijuana licensee. Host agreements may also require the payment of a "community impact fee."
Here is a non-exhaustive list of five options, ranging from "most tolerant/least restrictive" to "least tolerant/most restrictive" toward marijuana and its consumers.
1. (Most tolerant/least restrictive) Make no new laws. Approach marijuana like other regulated commodities (e.g., alcohol, recalling that the express purpose of the 2016 nonmedical marijuana legalization initiative was "to regulate marijuana like alcohol"), and apply existing zoning requirements to marijuana operations as they apply to other operations and their products. For example, allow cultivation in agricultural areas, product manufacture where light industry is allowed, and retail in retail districts. Employ the existing special permit/site plan approval process, sufficient to provide necessary protections for the public health, public safety, and for the preservation of the character of the community, the function of zoning. Take a look at the "Purpose" section of your town bylaw, usually the first, for additional aims. Remember you don't need to pass a law to allow something unless there's already a local law prohibiting it. Employ the host agreement to fill any local regulatory gaps arising after the special permit regulatory process.
2. For clarity, add marijuana establishments to the list of uses in the zoning code, and assign them in appropriate districts. This option was identified on page 8 of the CCC's recent Guidance for Municipalities.
3. Add a new regulatory section to the zoning code for marijuana establishments (as many communities did with medical marijuana four years ago), creating a new overlay district, replicating state requirements and imposing new ones.
4. Stall. Enact a moratorium.
5. (Least tolerant/most restrictive). Ban all marijuana establishments (and forego the revenue).
When will the stores open?
The target is July 1. Likely the early ones will be the medical dispensaries opening their doors to all adults. New ones will come on line as the application and licensing process plays out, until everybody who wants a license and can qualify for one has one. One year? Two? Five?
By people wanting a role in the business:
What will it take to get a license?
1. A supportive community, where you have developed a good reputation and and earned the good will and confidence of your neighbors and your municipality, through its leaders in town hall and elsewhere.
2. An application to the CCC meeting all the standards and requirements of the CCC regulations. The final regulations aren’t due in final form until March 15, but the draft regulations give a very strong clue as to the particulars of those standards and requirements.
How does it work?
It’s complicated. If you’re willing to put in some time and effort, go to the Cannabis Control Commission’s website and read everything, especially the draft regulations which give a strong clue as to what the applications will require. Here’s a summary of the process, on one page.
Is there a residency requirement for applicants?
Only for microbusinesses and craft co-ops.