Recreational marijuana businesses are on the road to becoming legal in Massachusetts but not in every city or town. At least 81 communities throughout Massachusetts have established or considered restrictions on the recreational marijuana industry.
Legalization of recreational marijuana passed by a slim 3.6 percent margin this November, and many areas throughout the Commonwealth are now opting out.
Recreational marijuana is currently legal to possess but illegal to sell. While voters approved legalization in 2016, the region will have to wait until at least January before retailers will be licensed to sell the drug.
Cities and towns are limiting or blocking the recreational industry by using moratoriums, outright bans or zoning regulations. Other communities are considering adopting one of these three strategies.
Interestingly, 33 towns that voted in favor of legalization are on the list of the at least 81 communities taking or considering actions to curtail the industry.
The most common way cities and towns are blocking legalization is through moratoriums on the cannabis industry. These moratoriums range from temporary to permanent, but they also differ in type. Some are restrictions on industry, while others are on sale and distribution. Forty-six of the 81 communities that have or are considering restricting activity from the recreational cannabis industry have enforced some type of moratorium. In 27 of the 46, the majority of the population voted in favor of legalization, ranging from margins as slim as 50.2 percent to 62.6 percent.
Twenty-five communities have decided on an outright ban. These bans can block sales, distribution, licensing, grow facilities and other factors as they relate to the evolving local market. In six of the 25, the majority of the population voted in favor of legalization, ranging from 50.9 percent to 52.8 percent.
One way cities and towns are either limiting access or restricting saturation in the new market is through zoning regulations. Cambridge, for example, is regulating the amount of and distance between retail spaces for the cannabis industry. Some communities are restricting how far cannabis retail can be from their borders. Four of the five areas imposing zoning regulations had a majority of their populations vote in favor of legalization, ranging from 50.5 percent to 71.3 percent.
At least three towns are currently considering action on restricting the legalization of recreational marijuana. Amesbury has formed a recreational marijuana committee to review any further action on restricting the industry. Bridgewater is considering zoning bylaws. Sterling is weighing options of a ban or moratorium. Of those three only the majority of Amesbury residents voted in favor of legalization, at 58.5 percent.