HOLYOKE – The city council introduced new zoning ordinances this week designed to further fuel the growth of the cannabis industry in the paper city.
The new zoning ordinances, passed by 9-3 on Tuesday, allow marijuana delivery stores to open in Holyoke. The changes also allow cultivation and production facilities to operate around the clock, reduce the distance these facilities need to be from schools or places where children congregate, and require businesses to attend a meeting with city council attend before submitting their application. They also create a site plan review process so the city can ensure a company is complying with any special permit requirements.
Holyoke has had a policy that welcomes the cannabis industry as a means of job creation and tax revenue. In particular, city officials have worked to attract manufacturing facilities and expand operations in Holyoke’s old mill buildings. The city’s low electricity tariffs and vacant industrial properties have drawn marijuana companies from across the country to the “Rolling Paper City” that some have been hoping for.
Holyoke currently has four marijuana stores in town: retailers Boston Bud Factory on Sargeant Street, Canna Provisions on Dwight Street, and Holyoke Cannabis on Dwight; and the cultivation and manufacturer RISE Holdings on Appleton Street. Another 22 license applications for manufacturers, breeders, retailers, a cannabis transport company and an independent test laboratory are pending with the state cannabis control commission.
Councilor Rebecca Lisi, who chaired the regulation committee and voted in favor of the changes, presented the new regulations at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
Lisi said that since city residents overwhelmingly voted for marijuana legalization in 2016, the city’s cannabis industry has added $ 5.7 million in real estate value and brought in $ 1.1 million in tax revenue. She also noted that in fiscal 2021, the host community agreements signed with marijuana companies raised $ 1.1 million to the Holyoke General Fund and raised 3% excise tax on local sales to $ 222,000.
“You can see that we are already generating significant sales with just four companies,” said Lisi.
The changes will benefit manufacturing and cultivation companies in the city who want to increase production or start operations.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several marijuana entrepreneurs spoke out in favor of the new regulations. Helen Gomez Andrews, who has three preliminary licenses in the city, said the proposed changes will help Holyokers build their businesses in the city.
Businesses interested in the supply of marijuana can now open in town. The state has opened licenses for this type of operation to applicants for social justice and economic empowerment – applicants from communities like Holyoke disproportionately affected by the so-called war on drugs.
One such applicant is Damaris Aponte, a native of Holyoke who plans to open a delivery business in the city.
“I want to give something back to my community, so I just ask you to just include the delivery in the ordinance,” Aponte said at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
Aponte said stock applications are meant to benefit those affected by the war on drugs who don’t necessarily have the capital that other marijuana entrepreneurs have.
“We don’t have a lot of money to start cultivators or big pharmacies,” Aponte said. “We’re just starting delivery.”
Dusty Christensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.