Zoning for Cannabis Establishments

The BPDA's Zoning Reform team proposes zoning amendments to the Boston Zoning Code regarding the regulation of Cannabis Establishments.

Overview & Goals

A 2008 Ballot campaign in Massachusetts decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana followed by another ballot initiative in 2012 which allowed licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis products to adults for medical use (with a doctor’s authorization). Then, in 2016, a ballot initiative, Question 4, directing the state Legislature to enable adult use recreational sales of cannabis products, won a majority of votes. The first two adult-use recreational cannabis retail establishments in Massachusetts opened in 2018.

The City of Boston Zoning Commission first enacted zoning to make medical marijuana dispensaries a Conditional Use in commercial and industrial zoning sub-districts. Later this zoning was replaced with “Cannabis Establishment” treating all cannabis-related uses (growing, processing, warehousing, sales and distribution) the same way. In 2019, the Boston Cannabis Board was established to develop regulations and procedures for evaluating proposed cannabis establishment licensing applications and ensuring the equitable regulation of the industry in Boston.

All currently operating Cannabis Establishments in Boston have had to undergo application for zoning relief at the Zoning Board of Appeals and licensure by the Boston Cannabis Board. These redundant processes have added to the time, expense and uncertainty of the permitting, which fall disproportionately on applicants with less resources, small local applicants and “equity” applicants but do not necessarily produce better outcomes.

Zoning amendments seek to remedy this situation by clarifying and streamlining the regulation of Cannabis Establishments across the City.

Upcoming Engagement

POSTPONED: Public Meeting on Proposed Zoning Amendment to Cannabis Establishments

Thursday, October 26, 2023 | 6:00 PM-7:30 PM

This meeting has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date. In the meantime, please feel free to reference last year's previous meeting on this proposed zoning change to understand the process to date. A new date will be announced as soon as possible.