Last year, City Councilor Lydia Edwards was a champion of the recreational marijuana shop in Maverick Square because it satisfied the city’s cannabis equity ordinance.
However, because the Zoning Board of Appeals approved an adult use facility on Meridian Street that is now up and running, East Boston Bloom needed a variance from the zoning board because it was less than a half mile from Berkshire Roots on Meridian.
While there are no state regulations of how close adult use facilities can be to one another the City of Boston adopted zoning that created a half mile buffer and prohibits two facilities from being within that half mile.
Many, including Edwards, went to bat for East Boston Bloom and supported the proposal because it met criteria for adult-use facilities in the neighborhood as well as being fully owned and operated by Eastie residents that were majority Latino.
While East Boston Bloom eventually got its variance from the ZBA it was a headache for all involved and the owners still are awaiting final approval from the state.
The issue with the two cannabis shops in Eastie shed light on some of the holes in the city ordinance like the half mile buffer rule as well as the host community agreement process.
Last week Edwards and Councilor Kim Janey filed amendments to Boston’s cannabis equity ordinance in an effort to bring transparency to the municipal approval process for marijuana businesses by changing the process for executing host community agreements. The Boston Cannabis Board adopted its final rules and regulations on July 22. Under those rules and regulations, the host community agreements are negotiated after approval by the BCB and there is no set timeline for their execution.
“I want it to be clear that review by the BCB of an application is the final point in the approval process before a business goes to the CCC. There can be no equity without transparency,” said Edwards. “If host community agreements are still being negotiated behind closed doors and there is no firm timeline on when they will be executed, entrepreneurs will continue to struggle with the lack of predictability that we have had for the last three years. This is the biggest frustration I have heard from people trying to get into the industry. They are paying rent every month and get no answers from the city about when they might be able to move on to the state application. I’m looking to fix that.”
Janes said the city cannot continue to force entrepreneurs – some of which have been in the pipeline for years – across the city to indefinitely throw money out the window with no clear timeline for the City’s application process.
“The original legislation that formed the Boston Cannabis Board was focused on equity and transparency,” she said. “The amendment we have filed will further strengthen this ordinance and the board’s process by creating a clear and transparent timeline for negotiating host community agreements.”
Under the proposed changes, the host community agreement negotiations would start within three days of the required community outreach meeting and a draft version of the agreement would be given to the applicant within 10 business days of that meeting. The negotiated agreement would then be reviewed by the Boston Cannabis Board as part of its review of a complete application. If the application is approved the agreement would be executed.
In addition to changes to the host community agreements, Councilor Edwards’ proposal also establishes the 1:1 minimum ratio of equity to non-equity licences for the various license types issued by the CCC. The CCC is only issuing delivery licenses to equity applicants for a two year period.
“We need to make sure that equity applicants are going to have the same opportunities to open dispensaries as non-equity applicants,” said Edwards. “My concern is that the BCB will be issuing equity licenses to delivery businesses over the next few years and if we don’t adjust the 1:1 ratio to include different types of businesses, non-equity applicants could get a much higher number of licenses to operate dispensaries than equity applicants.”
The proposed amendments to the ordinance were introduced during the weekly council meeting on Wednesday, July 29 and will now be assigned to a city council committee for a public hearing.