Bills propose more restrictions on new cannabis stores

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BOSTON — Banning cannabis companies from opening stores near day care centers and houses of worship will significantly raise their cost of doing business, particularly small entrepreneurs competing against multinational corporations, industry advocates say.

State law already bans marijuana establishments from locating within 500 feet of a public or private K-12 school.

Two bills, one filed by Rep. Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury, and the other filed by Sen. Joseph Boncore, D-Winthrop, at the request of a constituent, seek to add any “day care center, or any facility in which children commonly congregate,” and “church, synagogue temple, or place of worship” to the list.

Advocates testified at the Statehouse that, if the bills pass, real estate might become a barrier for the applicants who seek to move forward in the industry.

Joe Gilmore, the president of the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, told the Legislature’s Committee on Cannabis Policy that getting a permitted location was one of the largest challenges applicants face, and the bills would reduce available space while raising rents.

“Under the current buffers, it’s already almost impossible for most folks who qualify for social equity to acquire and maintain a permissible site,” he said.

Gilmore told the committee that the bills would price out applicants who can’t compete with the multinational corporations who have received licenses thus far.

Social equity is a provision of state law that seeks to engage people from communities of disproportionate impact and ensure their inclusion in the legal cannabis industry.

Cannabis Control Commission member Shaleen Title also told lawmakers real estate is “one of the primary hurdles for small businesses and businesses owned by people from marginalized communities” when seeking to obtain a marijuana license and open a business, according to Statehouse News Service.

“My opinion is that adding restrictions that are more difficult to define, including places of worship and facilities where children congregate, would slow down the approval, licensing and opening of marijuana establishments,” Title said.

Industry opposition was not unanimous.

Peter Bernard, the president of Massachusetts Grower Advocacy Council, said in an email that he supported the bills. He noted the regulation for places where children commonly congregate is reasonable.

“We do not think it will affect the industry much at all due to the way folks look for property,” he said in an interview. The cannabis industry is sensitive to the concerns around children, and consider locations carefully as a result.

“As much as some people in the Legislature think we’re unscrupulous people, we are actually pretty responsible and sensitive to such needs,” he added.

Currently, there are eight marijuana companies in Attleboro, some run by the same owners with various permits. Two more companies have been approved to sell adult-use marijuana with special permits from the Zoning Board of Appeals, according to an article published last month.

One of the recent permitted companies, Aspen Blue Cultures, which will be located at 40 Forest St., is within 1/10 of a mile of a day care center, according to Google Maps.

Jack Cutlip, the owner of Aspen Blue Cultures, stated in an email that he wasn’t sure if the day care is registered and the store location is already 500 feet away from the building.

This article was originally published in the Attleboro Sun-Chronicle.

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