Last week, City Councilor Lydia Edwards held a City Council hearing with the Committee of Government Operations aiming to close a city loophole in the granting of marijuana licenses that have left some local cannabis entrepreneurs in the lurch and disenfranchised.
At the hearing Edwards said there’s been a lack of transparency in the city’s approval process with both the Boston Cannabis Board (BCB) and the city’s Office of Emerging Industries (OEI) involved in the decision-making. However, OEI has been dragging their feet on many local applicants waiting to get into the lucrative cannabis game even after licenses are granted by BCB.
The problem, said Edwards, surrounds the city’s Host Community Agreement (HCA). The BCB adopted its final rules and regulations on July 22 and under those rules and regulations, the HCA negotiated with OEI after approval by the BCB and there is no set timeline for their execution.
“While the BCB is doing the licensing, OEI makes the final decision on who gets a license,” said Edwards at the hearing.
What Edwards is hoping to do is create a more robust community process when it comes to future HCA and establishing a solid timeline between a signed HCA and the granting of a license by BCB.
To Edwards this would make more sense than granting a license and then negotiating a HCA after the fact with no input from residents impacted by such a business. She said the BCB approval should be the last stop before state approval by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).
It would also give applicants a more clear roadmap from applying for a license to actually receiving one.
“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,” she said.
Edwards said the process has frustrated many applicants who have refurbished commercial spaces and are either paying hefty mortgages or rents waiting for the city to give them the okay to get final approval from the state.
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 BCB 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 HCAs, Edwards’ proposal also establishes the 1:1 minimum ratio of equity to non-equity licenses 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.”