Four companies looking to open the first recreational marijuana stores in the largest city in western Massachusetts have secured key first-step local approvals.
The Springfield City Council has ratified the host community agreements with four marijuana companies that were negotiated by the administration of Mayor Domenic Sarno.
Before the stores can open however, the businesses will need to secure special permits for their chosen locations from the City Council and then final licenses to operate from the state Cannabis Control Commission.
Almost three years after Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana, cannabis stores are opening across the state at a more rapid pace. Springfield City Council President Justin Hurst acknowledged city residents may be getting impatient.
" I understand their angst, " said Hurst. " Who wants to travel to Chicopee, to Easthampton, to Amherst to go and get what you could get right here? However, we do want to make sure we've done it right and it doesn't make sense that at the 11th hour we miss a step and folks are mad the next day."
Councilors Monday praised presentations made by the four companies that outlined their business plans and employment goals.
At a hearing by the council’s Economic Development Committee last week, councilors questioned how one of the companies, INSA Inc., had arrived at a decision to spend $200,000 on a school environmental program and a public park. The three other companies did not make commitments in their host community agreements to fund specific local projects or programs.
The host community agreement with INSA was approved 10-1, with Hurst voting against it.
Councilor E. Henry Twiggs was the lone vote against the agreement with Holistic Industries. Before the vote, an attorney for the company said a greater effort would be made to hire city residents and minorities than what was initially agreed to.
The votes were unanimous for the other two host community agreements.
One of the companies looking to open a marijuana store in Springfield is an economic empowerment applicant – a provision in the state’s marijuana law that is intended to right some of the wrongs of the war on drugs that inflicted harm on communities of color.
Payton Shubrick said the store her family-owned company called 6 Bricks plans to open in the McKnight neighborhood will employ about two dozen people including some with criminal records for drug crimes committed when marijuana was prohibited.
"I am very excited for what 6 Bricks represents," said Shubrick, adding the fact she was born and raised in Springfield is "the icing on the cake."
The marijuana company 311 Page Blvd, founded by former Springfield City Councilor Tim Rooke, which plans to open a store in a former gym in East Springfield, won praise from councilors for a workforce development initiative.
"We will be offering two scholarships to two students from STCC ( Springfield Technical Community College) to enter the program and not only will we train them, but we will gaurantee placement in the industry," explained Rooke.
The host community agreements require each company to pay the city 3 percent of their stores’ annual gross revenues -- the maximum allowed under state law.