Zoning for Cannabis Establishments

The BPDA's Zoning Reform team, in partnership with Boston's Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, the Boston Cannabis Board, and the Boston Licensing Board, proposes zoning amendments to the Boston Zoning Code regarding the regulation of Cannabis Establishments, to eliminate Boston's additional half-mile buffer requirement between establishments, while still retaining the state-required 500 foot buffer from school entrances. For clarification, both the Boston Cannabis Board and Zoning Board of Appeal will continue to require approval before any establishments can open in the city. Additionally, the Boston Cannabis Board will still take a half-mile buffer into account when considering the locations of applicants. This zoning change would only remove it from the zoning code itself.

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 adjusting buffer requirements to Cannabis Establishments to match the state's requirement for a 500 foot buffer from school entrances, and removing the current additional restriction of requiring a half-mile buffer between establishments in the City. 

Upcoming Engagement

Please check back for upcoming meetings! 
 

Past Engagement 

Public Meeting on Cannabis Establishment Zoning Amendment | Presentation | Recording | Chat

Thursday, May 9, 2024 | 6:00 PM–7:30 PM

The BPDA held a virtual public meeting on Thursday, May 9, 2024, from 6:00 PM–7:30 PM to present proposed amendments to the Boston Zoning Code. The proposed amendments make regulatory changes around the definitions, approval, and regulation of cannabis establishments. For clarification, both the Boston Cannabis Board and Zoning Board of Appeal will continue to require approval before any establishments can open in the city. Additionally, the Boston Cannabis Board will still take a half-mile buffer into account when considering the locations of applicants. This zoning change would only remove it from the zoning code itself.

The public comment period for the draft text amendment related to removing the half-mile buffer requirement between cannabis establishments has started and remained open until May 31, 2024. The draft text amendment can be found here, and materials related to the presentation related to this amendment can be found here. A compilation of all public comments can be found here