A 2008 Ballot campaign in Massachusetts de-criminalized 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.
Currently there are 14 cannabis establishments operating in Boston, all have had to undergo application for zoning relief at the Zoning Board of Appeals AND licensure by the Boston Cannabis Board (many more in some phase of the various permitting process). 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.
To remedy this situation, the City of Boston has recommended amending the Zoning Code to treat Cannabis Establishments in the same way that retail uses are treated, Allowed in commercial and business sub-districts but remain Forbidden in residential sub-districts. The process for seeking zoning relief through the Zoning Board of Appeal has been made redundant by the Boston Cannabis Boards process and regulations so the time is right to phase out the ZBA requirement.
This is the second public meeting on this zoning amendment. This first meeting was held on August 29, 2022.
How to Participate
Register to attend this virtual public meeting at bit.ly/Zoom1102. You can find the recording of the previous meeting on this topic as well as the draft amendment at bit.ly/CannabisZoning. Public comments will be accepted on the proposed amendments until Wednesday, November 9, 2022. Public comments may be submitted via email to [email protected].
A summary of this proposal has been provided in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Haitian Creole, and Cape Verdean Creole (at bit.ly/CannabisZoning). Additional interpretation and document translation services are available upon request at no cost to you. Please request interpreting services no later than 5 days before the meeting date. For translation or interpreting services, contact [email protected].