Advocacy group threatens Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission with Lawsuit

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An advocacy group for cannabis growers in Massachusetts plans to sue the Cannabis Control Commission in order to push them to review the agreements between businesses and their host towns, an issue they believe has greatly contributed to the slow rollout of retail marijuana.

The president of the Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, Peter Bernard, said that group will speak with its attorney on Wednesday and will likely take the lawsuit to court.

“We just want them to review these going forward and strike down offending contractual clauses going backwards,” said Bernard.

There is currently a community impact fee capped at 3 percent that host town can impose on cannabis businesses, but because a host community agreement has not yet been executed, advocates and cannabis businesses are saying that towns are using the current required agreements to take more than 3 percent.

“We see the issue of sticking to the law on this as important because without oversight a town can extort an applicant, or an applicant with money can make bribes, all out in the open,” said Bernard. “Lack of oversight is causing economic empowerment applicants and small businesses to miss out.”

The Commission has not reviewed the agreements because they do not feel they have the authority and voted down a proposal in August that would have included a review of the agreements. Chairman Steven Hoffman and others believe that the Commission “lacks the legal authority to intervene or reject an application based on the host community agreement,” according to MassLive.

Hoffman suggested that the law isn’t clear enough, leading Mark Cusack, Policy Committee Chairman Rep. to say it “has less to do with ambiguity than it does reading comprehension.” Co-chair, Sen. Patricia Jehlen said that the enforcement of the law will be left to the courts.

“What else can be included in the agreement is not quite as explicit and so some cities and towns are asking for quote voluntary donations. There’s some concern we have,” said Hoffman. “To the extent that we think there is abuse, as we said at our last meeting, we will go back to the Legislature with evidence and say, ‘we think you probably need to tighten these standards a little bit about what is allowable.’”

The commission had previously said that they hoped the retail cannabis industry would begin sales by July 1, but that has yet to happen and the commission has not provided an update on the expected date for when marijuana can be purchased in Massachusetts.

“I have concerns that if we start going into these HCAs, that we are going to be sued, that we are going to delay the process, that a simple anticipated hour of inspection, if we don’t get it right then we’re going to come back and be told we didn’t do it right,” said Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan at an August commission meeting.

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