Last week Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. signed letters of nonopposition to two companies seeking to open registered marijuana dispensaries in the city.
According to the city, “Mission Massachusetts will locate a retail and cultivation facility at 640 Lincoln St. The facility will employ approximately 50 people.
“Medicinal Alternatives will locate a retail and packaging facility at 1191 Millbury St. The facility will employ approximately 30 people.”
As part of the agreements, the city has agreed to cap the number of registered dispensaries at four. Previous agreements with Prime Wellness for a dispensary at 0 Pullman St. and Good Chemistry for a retail facility at 9 Harrison St. mean the city has fulfilled its obligations.
In addition, Augustus signed a letter of nonopposition with Good Chemistry for a cultivation facility at 40 Pullman St.
The two newest agreements were signed with the same terms as the first two, which were favorable to the city.
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According to the city: “The agreement will pay the City $100,000, plus 1.5 percent of gross sales revenue, during the first year of operation. In the second year they will pay $150,000, plus 2 percent of gross sales revenue. They will pay $200,000, plus 2.5 percent of gross sales revenue in the third year and all subsequent years of operation in the City.
“Every organization will also contribute a minimum of $10,000 annually to public charities or causes of its choosing benefiting the neighborhood.”
In total, the city wrote, “By 2019, the four entities operating dispensaries in the City of Worcester will supply approximately 140 jobs, a minimum of $800,000 in annual payments plus a percentage of gross sales, and a minimum of $50k annually to site neighborhoods.”
We commend the city for negotiating such favorable terms in exchange for the letters of nonopposition. Limiting the letters of nonopposition allowed the city to negotiate favorable terms while ensuring the city does not become overrun with such dispensaries.
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According to the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, six dispensaries in the state have been licensed to sell to the nearly 20,000 medical marijuana patients in the Bay State. Those sites are located in Salem, Ayer, Brockton, Brookline, Northampton and Lowell.
That only six sites became operational since voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana by ballot initiative in 2012 speaks to the state’s due diligence in creating, licensing and monitoring a new industry that appears ready to explode.
Massachusetts has 183 applications pending for dispensaries, nine filed prior to June 29, 2015, and 174 between then and July 15.
The volume of applications is surely in anticipation of voters taking the next step in the evolution of marijuana licensing, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.
This November voters in Massachusetts, California, Maine and Nevada will vote on whether to join Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in legalizing recreational marijuana.
What once appeared to be an easy win for advocates of recreational marijuana is now a tossup.
A recent poll conducted for Jobs First, a conservative political action committee, found 51 percent of the 901 registered voters surveyed would vote against recreational marijuana.
In addition, formal opposition to the measure is building. Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals and the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts have all announced their opposition to legalization.
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Opposition on moral grounds is as understandable as those who object on public health grounds. On the other side, those who do not share those concerns are joined by those who see the commercial benefit.
It is the commercial benefit that gives us pause.
In an ideal world, the decision to legalize and regulate marijuana should be made on social mores. But the promise of jobs and tax revenue is becoming increasingly alluring as cash-strapped governments cope with the realities of a changing economy.
The state has six facilities for dispensing marijuana. Nearly 200 more are queued up.
What will voters choose?