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Pittsfield city council celebrates its youth athletes, removes limit on marijuana businesses to prepare for statewide policy shift

Pittsfield, Massachusetts city hall.
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts city hall.

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council met Tuesday for the first time since passing Mayor Peter Marchetti’s nearly $216 million budget.

The city council unanimously approved removing the limit set on marijuana retail establishments in the city.

“This was a change to the zoning ordinance, and previously it had allowed for up to 35 recreational retail marijuana businesses to operate in the city, and what we did with the changes last night was just simply remove that language entirely from the ordinance. And the reason for that is we're making some changes overall, kind of comprehensive changes to the city's cannabis policies reacting to updated legislation and regulations from the [Cannabis Control Commission], and this is kind of clearing the way so that there's no potential conflicts internally with our ordinances when we do move those new policies forward," Community Development & Housing Program Manager Nate Joyner explained. “The biggest change pushed down from the state regarding these cannabis businesses is there's now requirements addressing equity participation for impacted residents of the state, whether they have a past drug conviction, a family member of a past drug conviction, or in a community that was heavily policed during the prohibition.”

The Cannabis Control Commission – currently embroiled in a series of scandals including the suspension of top staffers and harassment allegations – is tasked with regulating marijuana in Massachusetts.

“Folks in this social equity participation category, which is certified through the CCC, will now kind of be given parity with previous non-social equity participant members when seeking host agreements at the local level," Joyner continued. "So the new requirements will have us giving preference to social equity participants or reserving spaces for social equity participants, so that eventually we'll have an equal number of social equity and non-social equity license holders in the community.”

Joyner says the move is a recognition that the Massachusetts retail marijuana rollout faced significant equity issues.

“This seems to be an attempt by the CCC and the state to kind of put the genie back in the bottle and give local residents even footing with the more monied, out of state interests that we saw rush to the state at the beginning of legalization,” he told WAMC.

According to Joyner, the city has around 22 host agreements in place with cannabis businesses — about half of which have actually opened and begun to operate.

Pittsfield has until March 2025 to implement the commonwealth’s new equity rules for cannabis and host community agreements.

The meeting began with the issuance of three proclamations celebrating local athletic achievements.

“Whereas Pittsfield is a home to many sports teams with talented, dedicated, and hardworking athletes, the Pittsfield High School softball team is a perfect example. This team persevered to become the 2024 Western Mass champions, ending the season with a 21-4 record," read Mayor Marchetti. “This is the first Western Mass title earned by the Pittsfield High School girls softball team since 2018. The team also competed in the state championships for the first time since 2004.”

The squad’s season ended in the state semifinals.

The first-term mayor then turned to the PHS baseball team, which had a similarly dominant performance.

“This team persevered to become the 2024 Western Mass champions, ending the season in a 20-6 record," Marchetti continued. "Whereas this is the first Western Mass title earned by the Pittsfield High School boys baseball team since 2004, and the team also competed in the state championship the last time in 2004.”

Pittsfield’s competitive spirit wasn’t restricted to the diamond.

“I’d like to present a certificate of recognition [from] the city of Pittsfield [that] proudly honors and recognizes Pittsfield High School's Jake Bassi for competing in the Massachusetts Summer Special Olympics at Harvard University on June 8th, 2024, earning a gold in the standing long jump and a silver in the softball throw," read Marchetti. "Congratulations.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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