BOSTON – Marijuana retailers want to get rid of the impact fees they pay cities to set up a business, arguing the industry has had minimal impact on police, fire and other community services.
A proposal from Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, would require local governments to conduct annual reviews of costs to their communities by housing pot operations and reimbursing pharmacies if necessary. If a municipality doesn’t conduct an audit, pharmacies can sue to get the money back.
Supporters of the changes say some communities are going beyond the 2016 referendum to legalize marijuana by charging excessive fees for setting up a business.
“These fees should offset the costs to the communities, which was negligible,” said David Torrisi, president of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, which represents marijuana retailers. Some communities use impact fees for non-cannabis-related expenses, he said.
The 2016 law allows adults 21 and older to own up to 10 ounces of weeds, and it allows regulated cultivation and sale. The law also allows the municipalities to levy consumption taxes of up to 3% within the framework of “host agreements”. This is on top of the state excise tax of 10.75% on cannabis and the state sales tax of 6.25%.
Cities and towns may also impose impact fees that are “reasonably related to the cost” of running a pot business, such as: B. the manning of additional police patrols, which, however, do not exceed 3% of the gross turnover of the company.
According to the law, these fees must be renegotiated by the municipalities every five years.
Meanwhile, some communities have added a “reopening” clause to the pacts that requires marijuana dealers to increase their payments when they give more money to other communities.
Proponents of the marijuana industry say the long lines and traffic jams outside of pharmacies that accompanied the opening of the first retail stores in late 2018 have long since subsided. Most pharmacies set their own security and do not rely on the local police.
According to the state cannabis control commission, at least 46 municipalities had at least one recreational pharmacy open by 2020.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association strongly opposes efforts to eliminate community impact fees. She argues that the agreements are no different from contracts with real estate developers and others to offset the increased cost of providing police, fire or other community services.
In earlier statements on a similar proposal, Geoff Beckwith, the association’s executive director, suggested that the move is part of a broader strategy to “reduce and weaken the municipal role in the approval and licensing processes,” which “has long-term implications could “the ability of local authorities to freely contract outside the marijuana industry. “
Excessive entry fees for marijuana industry experts unnecessarily stifle market growth by crowding out smaller businesses that cannot afford to pay high fees.
“There are communities that charge marijuana companies fees that are well beyond the legal framework,” said Jim Borghesani, a marijuana industry advisor who helped on the 2016 election question. “It has to be a balanced playing field.”
Christian M. Wade reports on the Massachusetts Statehouse for the North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email to [email protected]