Cannabis Host Community Agreements need State House fix

Why not include alcohol establishments?

by Peter Bernard

Host Community Agreements. These contracts between cannabis operators and the municipalities where they reside are a requirement of law. The law allows for municipalities to ask for up to a certain amount for specific purposes. Those purposes are to offset costs incurred by the community to support the cannabis enterprise. The law has a name for this. It’s called a Community Impact Fee. The towns are allowed to ask for up to 3% of an operator’s gross annual revenue for five years and must account for how that money is spent.

So why do we hear people talk about so much more than 3% being sought by municipalities?

The short answer is that there is no enforcement of the statute governing host community agreements. The Cannabis Control Commission requires only that a letter be provided proving that such an agreement exists. The agreement’s contents don’t come under review anywhere in the process. Nobody at the CCC or anywhere else on the state level enforces any of the limits prescribed by law.

The Cannabis Control Commission says it lacks the authority to enforce that part of the law because it doesn’t give them permission to. As a result, there are bills in both the house and senate on Beacon Hill that would set strict limits on that 3% and instruct the CCC to ensure an HCA’s compliance. This would level the playing field in acquiring an HCA. No longer would operators be able to come into a town and offer the moon in exchange for that HCA. No longer could getting an HCA be turned into a bidding war.

Organizations like the Mass Municipal Association (MMA) will say that we’re greedy, that essentially, we can afford it and should just shut up. Well guess what, MMA? People are bleeding money waiting on licenses. It’s going to be a long time before owners see any real profit. Their applications are completed and they’re now in a limbo, waiting their turn to be reviewed. The wait can last months. Or in some cases years. Aside from that, no other industry in the country is expected to pay such extortion for the privilege of doing business.

The MMA would prefer to think of cannabis as a new gold rush. It is, but it isn’t. It’s a gold rush in as much as it is a boon to the Commonwealth, and certainly some people are going to get rich. The tax revenues will be a benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole and to the towns that allow retail sales by way of their 3% of the sales tax which is in addition to the host community agreement money. But the MMA doesn’t seem satisfied with that. They want more. They are the embodiment of greed. They want something for nothing.

At the end of the day, the playing field needs to be level for everyone. There needs to be a sense of fairness. Everyone should have to start from the same starting line.

Hey MMA. How about you hit up all those liquor stores, bars, and restaurants that serve booze and strong arm THEM out of 3% or more of their gross earnings. Hey man, fair is fair. What’s good for the goose and all.

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Peter C. Bernard is the President of Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council.

https://massgrower.org/

Peter@massgrower.org

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