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Tensions Grow in Massachusetts Cities that Ban Marijuana Businesses


Officials in Milford don’t want a retail marijuana shop on every street corner. City officials have imposed a ban on new recreational marijuana businesses. The two existing businesses, a cultivator and a testing facility, are being grandfathered in to remain operational.

Voters in Milford elected to ban new recreational marijuana businesses from opening, according to Mass Live. Sira Naturals cultivates medical marijuana now, but is moving to obtain licensing to cultivate recreational marijuana as well.

Newton is taking a similar approach. Garden Remedies dispensary is already operational. A moratorium through the end of 2018 is now in place preventing any additional marijuana businesses from opening in the city.

Clerk of council David Olson said, “One thing that was said several times was by giving Garden Remedies an exemption to the moratorium, we would have one facility that would test things out and see how things were going on the recreational side before going full blown recreational.”

Individual jurisdictions are permitted to ban new marijuana businesses from opening up under Massachusetts marijuana law.

Kamani Jefferson of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council said, “Dispensaries can lobby towns to say no new businesses other than the people who already spent millions of dollars.”

At first, Milford was going to ban all marijuana businesses, including the two already in operation. Exceptions to the ban were made for the two businesses already operating after making a compromise.

Other cities around the state are making their own rules such as Amherst allowing as many eight marijuana businesses. Four medical marijuana dispensaries have already submitted applications.

Jefferson is concerned about monopolization.

Jefferson said, “We see existing dispensaries trying to monopolize the market. How can it be equitable if there’s a monopoly?”

City and town officials argue that it is a matter of keeping their communities safe and easing into recreational legalization responsibly.

Sira Naturals lobbied for an exemption after Milford passed the total ban.

CEO of Sira Naturals, Michael Dundas, said, “I have not heard of a town that really seeks at the outset, as a policy matter, to create a monopoly for one organization just because it existed there prior. In our case, it was certainly an afterthought. It was a hindsight look back on the part of town meeting to say listen, we ran headlong into this ban without adequately thinking through the implications for existing businesses. If I’d gone to the town and said let’s do a ban for everyone but us, I think I would have been laughed out of the room.”